AUSTIN, Texas — Going through the justice system as an adult can be tough. Imagine navigating it as a child who has been abused or neglected. 

“It’s scary for them,” said Alisa De Luna, senior director of community initiatives for CASA of Travis County. “They need someone that’s there consistently, that can help them get through this process, that's the same face that can get them back to a stabilize normal routine, as quickly as possible.” 

Volunteers for CASA of Travis County step in and speak up for youth in court. Advocates make independent and informed recommendations in the child’s best interest. The nonprofit is working to recruit another 150 volunteers, this year, and they are also searching for diversity. 

“We found it very critical to make sure that we are reflecting the entire Austin community in our volunteer pool, with our kids,” De Luna said. 

De Luna said approximately 45 percent of the children CASA of Travis County serves identify as Hispanic or Latino. As for volunteers, it is 10 percent. Twenty-five percent of children identify as Black or African American, while 4 percent of volunteers do. Seventy-eight percent of volunteers identify as white, while 16 percent of children CASA services do. 

CASA of Travis County recently received a $112,000 grant to address the challenge. They will hire a diversity recruiting specialist and begin a grassroots effort to reach potential volunteers.  

“Someone who just looks like they come from their community, just to give that initial breath of relief in some ways a familiarity, whether it’s bringing food and and culture, and we can do that better and we can serve them better if we pull from the entire Austin community,” De Luna said. 

Volunteers complete an interview and background check, and go through a 39-hour intensive training program. Every month, volunteers dedicate on average 20 hours advocating for children in court. 

The next information session is July 16:

  • 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
  • Milwood Branch Library
  • 12500 Amherst Dr., Austin, TX 78727 

For more information, visit CASA of Travis County