The Dumas office of CASA 69 will close as of September 1, but Moore County clients of the organization will still be able to receive help, according to CASA 69 Executive Director Evinn Wyatt. "We will continue to serve Moore County … this will not affect services," she said.
CASA 69 will operate out of their Dalhart office and continue to serve clients in Moore, Dallam, Hartley, and Sherman Counties as before. Wyatt says there are only two full-time CASA 69 staffers, so CASA volunteers usually meet their child clients in the community. "The office in Dumas was primarily used for paper work." Child Protective Services (CPS) and several Dumas churches have offered office space for CASA volunteers to use, if the need arises. "The organization can save about $8,000 per year by closing the Dumas office," Wyatt said. People needing to contact CASA 69 can call the Dalhart office at 806-244-2684.
CASA 69 stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates in the 69th Judicial District. CASA volunteers represent children removed from homes by CPS investigators due to suspected child abuse. The volunteer assists the child through all of the court proceedings until the child is put up for adoption or returned to the home, either because the charges turned out to be unfounded, or the family was reunited under the supervision of CPS and the court. The volunteer monitors the child's life in foster care and reports to the court on his or her wellbeing and progress. According to Wyatt, CASA 69 is currently serving 60 children in the district.
Wyatt says the work of CASA volunteers is difficult, but rewarding. "Anybody that is willing to be that voice for a child, step up. It might be hard information to take in, but think about how hard it is on a child who is living through it," she said. "We are in need of volunteers desperately. Moore County is the biggest removal population that we serve. We need volunteers from Dumas. We only have three volunteers from Dumas."
CASA volunteers must pass a background check, be fingerprinted, and receive 30 hours of training. The work is complicated by the fact that, because of a shortage of foster families, children from the local area have to be placed in homes all over the State of Texas and sometimes beyond. There is only one CASA child in foster care in Dumas at present. Volunteers have to travel to see their clients on a regular basis.
Whatever difficulty is involved in being a CASA volunteer, Wyatt says it is worth it. She knows. She was a volunteer for more than a year before becoming a full-time staffer in 2015. When long-time Executive Director Edye Cunningham retired in May, Wyatt moved up into the role. "It is very fulfilling to know I am making a difference," she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Wyatt or Tiffany Akin, CASA 69 Volunteer Supervisor, at the Dalhart office.