CASA of Collin County was recently provided a grant to enable to it volunteers to continue to provide support for the neglected and abused children that have been removed from their homes in Collin County.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, trains volunteers to provide a voice to abused or neglected children who are entering the foster care system. Due in large part to grants like the one being provided by the ORIX Foundation, CASA of Collin County has been able to provide support for these children.

“We are the eyes and ears of the court,” Susan Etheridge, executive director for CASA Collin County, said. “We meet with the child, foster parents, doctors, lawyers etc., whoever interacts with the child, with the objective of notifying the court of our informed opinion of where permanency can be established.”

CASA of Collin County has served more than 10,000 children since 1991. Because of CASA’s efforts, children spend less time in foster care and are therefore more likely to do well in school and are able to achieve a more positive outcome, Etheridge said.

“We’ve been operating since 2009 and our focus is on programs that work with at-risk children,” Carol Greene, director of the ORIX Foundation, said. “We have not done much outside of Dallas County so we would like to impact other places like Collin County as well. CASA of Collin County are very efficient with their funds, which encouraged us to support that organization. Any opportunity where we can support a child in need is enticing to us.”

Susan Etheridge explained that it is difficult for them to obtain funds for operating costs. Donors often want their money to go directly to a child and not be spent on salaries for staff or building costs.

“I want people to know that every donation, even the smallest pennies donated by an elementary schooler and all the way up to something like the ORIX grant, all matter to us,” Etheridge said. “Generosity like that from ORIX is what allows us to do what we do.”

If individuals are not able to provide monetary gifts, Etheridge said volunteers are always need as well, especially to mentor to boys.

“Around 50 percent of our children are boys and we are severely lacking in male volunteers,” she said.

CASA’s program benefits Prosper, Anna, Melissa, and all of Collin County. 417th Judicial Court Judge, Cyndi Wheless, described the way in which the program positively affects the children and therefore the community where they reside.

“These are kids who, through no fault of their own, are plunked in the middle of a home filled with people they do not know and maybe a new school and a courtroom they wish they never had anything to do with,” Wheless said in an email interview. “The CASA can be their sounding board and a consistent pair of eyes who ‘know’ that they have done nothing wrong.”

She added that children often blame themselves for negative situations, so these volunteers can help provide some necessary reassurance.

“The role of the CASA in my court is the guardian ad litem for the child(ren),” Wheless said in her email. “Therefore, their duty is the same as the judge — to do determine the best interest of the child(ren).”