Representatives from Court Appointed Special Advocates of Central Texas, or CASA, as well as ABC journalist John Quiñones attended a special conference in New Braunfels Thursday to discuss the urgent need of volunteers to the program.
Each year over 750 central Texas children is placed in foster care, and over half are looked after by CASA volunteers.
“They donate their time and their hearts to serve children who have been abused or neglected,” CASA Development Director Tricia Schneider said.
CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court--they provide detailed background information for the child they represent and help carve a path to a safe and healthy environment.
"Prevent them from making mistakes, or becoming part of the homeless population or the incarcerated population,” Former CASA child Justice LaRue said.
That's why Justice LaRue is urging the community to take part.
“Let's take action now, let's not wait until something bad happens,” LaRue said.
At the age of 15, she was matched up with a woman named Lori Donley
"She came into my life a little later and a lot of people they do hear that number, and they're just like what kind of an impact could she have really had,” LaRue said.
The 20-year-old believes Donely was more than just a volunteer.
"She really changed who I am as a person and helped me become who I am today,” LaRue said.
LaRue is now a University of Houston senior set to graduate with three degrees.
"Here's a girl who suffered herself and now she's thriving as a college student,” CASA supporter and ABC Journalist John Quinones said.
Quinones, a Central Texas native, understands how a child's environment can affect their everyday life.
He feels LaRue is an example of what the program can do for thousands.
"I think it's incumbent upon each and every one of us to do what we can to raise our voices and to sound the alarm to help those kids,” Quinones said.
The CASA of Central Texas is also working to construct a new, permanent center in San Marcos. Thursday, they received a $25,000 donation by a supporter. Staff said the gift will allow them to serve more children and train more advocates.
The group has started a Capital Campaign outlining what the center would offer. To learn more about how you can help volunteer or donate, click here.