Local News

Aug 23, 2013 1:55 PM by Janine Reyes

More Men Needed to Help Local Kids in Foster Care

CORPUS CHRISTI -- This year alone 907 kids in the Coastal Bend had to be placed in foster care.

While there aren't enough advocates to go around, there really are not enough men on the CASA volunteer force.

Courtrooms, attorneys and judges can be quite frightening for kids.

Especially kids who've already been through abuse or neglect that leads to visits from CPS and police and even watching their mother taken away in cuffs.

In the courtroom, the case involving Maria Carrejo's 3 kids had a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or a CASA. But, the woman, who served entirely on a volunteer basis did more than just attend court hearings, she got to know the girls trapped in a scary system.

Hundreds of kids go it daily in our area, and while this case involved all girls, not all do.

"There was barely anything to eat in the house, she never paid attention to us, no matter what it was," Jerry Leal told us. The now 18-year-old called CPS on his mother 5 years ago.

He says he did it to protect himself and his younger brothers when his mother began having relations with a 13-year-old boy.

"I try to stay as far away from that part of my life as possible," Leal told us.

He and his brothers now live with their father, but, for years, their case went through the courts and he credits his Court Appointed Special Advocate for helping get him through it.

He says at one point he had no interest in school. Now, though, as a high school senior, he'll also graduate with two years of college credit.

"Right now I'm in the Collegiate Dual Credit Program and it was actually my CASA's idea to try out for that," Leal said.

He plans to go into family law and support CASA, so other kids who experience what he did make it out successfully.

"It made a big impact on my life and I'm glad someone was there to help me out," Leal told us.

While there can be just as many young boys abused each year as girls, there are 3 times more women serving as CASAs in the Coastal Bend than there are men.

To be exact, there are 27% men to 73 percent women.

Retired school teacher Andy Rodriguez hopes to change that, he's training now to volunteer.

As a teacher, he already impacted children's lives, now he hopes more men will follow his lead.

"I'm really hoping that we get more male volunteers, because we have more boys that could use a male role model," Rodriguez said.

CASA of the Coastal Bend hopes to recruit another 100-150 volunteers.

To learn more, call (361) 884-2272 or click here.

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