Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA of the South Plains, will celebrate their 20th year in Lubbock Thursday.
Since 1993, the non-profit organization has served more than 5,000 children on the South Plains. On Thursday, the program will be honored with a special luncheon at the Helen Jones DeVitt Sculpture at the Texas Tech Museum.
CASA Volunteers solely represent children in the foster care system. They do not side with the court system, CPS, birth families, or foster care families. For Jacinto Mendez, a former foster child, it was the guidance of CASA volunteer that helped him succeed in the foster care system.
"Instead of a mentor, he was more like a father figure," Mendez said.
Mendez entered the foster care system at the age of 11. Through the course of his childhood, he went through numerous homes. He says his CASA, Arthur, was a constant presence in his life.
"Going through foster care you go through a lot of foster people and he was always there in the times when I needed somebody," Mendez said.
Melissa Pierce is the marketing coordinator for CASA of the South Plains. She says the program currently has about 120 volunteers.
"And they each have one family. That one family, could be one child, it could be 12 kids. So, there are definitely thousands of children who have been impacted by CASA," Pierce said.
Pierce says the foster children who are assigned a CASA spend 5 months less, on average, in the foster care system than children who do not have a CASA.
"They do a lot of the things that a parent would do to make sure the child is getting the best care the need with the eventual goal of getting them into a permanent, loving home," Pierce said.
Mendez is now an adult. He is married and has a young son. He says he has considered becoming a CASA volunteer himself so he can pay forward what Arthur and other CASAs do for foster children every day.
"They make sure the kids are getting what they need, make sure everything is fine, and they push them to succeed in life," Mendez said.
Mendez will be speaking at Thursday's luncheon. The luncheon is at 11:45AM at the Helen DeVitt Jones Sculpture Court in the Texas Tech Museum. Tickets are still available. For more information, visit: http://casaofthesouthplains.org/