Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates ®), the statewide association of volunteer programs that advocate for children in the child protection system, was awarded a $185,000 grant by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to help address mental health issues for children in the foster care system.
“We are concerned for mental health care for foster children and we are committed to reducing system-induced trauma. Too many of our children are not getting adequate mental health services once they enter the foster care system, too many are being prescribed psychotropic drugs to manage behavior instead of therapy to treat problems and too many are falling through the cracks because of multiple moves,” said Vicki Spriggs, chief executive officer for Texas CASA.
With the Hogg Foundation grant, Texas CASA will thoroughly research mental health issues and collaborate with experts and stakeholders to identify evidence-based solutions. The research and collaboration funded by the Hogg Foundation grant will lay the groundwork for much-needed policy recommendations to improve mental health outcomes for children in foster care, said Spriggs.
Last year, more than 64,000 children in Texas were confirmed as victims of abuse and neglect and more than 47,000 were placed in the care and custody of the state of Texas. These are children who have been physically, sexually and emotionally abused and neglected.
“Because of limited resources and placement options, children are often placed in foster homes and facilities far from their homes, their schools, and friends and family. Then children are moved repeatedly, which often means children are re-traumatized,” Spriggs said. “CASA volunteers are on the front lines and see the damage that occurs as children are moved through the system. We need to make sure these children get the help they need and don’t layer trauma upon trauma.”
Texas CASA is a member of the Public Private Partnership involved in the legislatively mandated redesign of the Texas foster care system. Texas CASA advocates for change in the foster care system to improve the lives of children, who through no fault of their own, end up in foster care.
Stephanie LeBlue has joined Texas CASA as the public policy coordinator for mental health thanks to funding from the Hogg Foundation. LeBlue and Texas CASA Director of Public Affairs Andrea Sparks are working with legislators and child welfare stakeholders on legislation addressing the overreliance of psychotropic medication prescribed to manage children’s behaviors rather than exploring alternative therapies.
About Texas CASA
Austin-based Texas CASA is the statewide association of 69 local CASA programs that with more than 7,200 well-trained volunteers served nearly 23,000 children in 206 of the 254 counties in FY 2012. Texas CASA provides funding, training and technical assistance to the staff, board and volunteers of the 69 member programs.
CASA volunteers are regular people who have chosen to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. CASA volunteers are screened and trained then appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a children in the foster care system. Often the CASA volunteer is the one constant in a child’s life while he or she goes through the over-burdened foster care system. CASA volunteers work to move the children through foster care and into safe permanent homes as quickly as possible. More than half the children in foster care do not have CASA volunteers. For more information, please visit www.TexasCASA.org.
About the Hogg Foundation
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health advances recovery and wellness in Texas by supporting mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education. The foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Gov. James S. Hogg and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Mental Health Policy Project grants were launched in 2008. This is the fifth year of the foundation’s grant initiative to improve local, state and national public policies that affect Texas consumers of mental health services and their families.