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      CASA seeks volunteers amid state budget cuts

      Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, needs your help being the voice of abused or neglected children.

      The agency needs volunteers more than ever It's something that affects thousands of children.

      "Child abuse is a community problem," said CASA Executive Director Linda Gonzalez.

      In 2010 alone, there were almost three thousand confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in Hidalgo County.

      "As a community, we must united and address it," said Gonzalez.

      It's a mission that CASA aims to accomplish.

      When a child is abused or neglected and taken from their home, a CASA volunteer is appointed to the case to be the eyes and ears for the court.

      "When we have a CASA assigned to the case, it ensures that the child is not forgotten," said Gonzalez. "We are that one constant adult figure in a child's life."

      Gonzalez said it's very important because South Texas has the greatest amount of child deaths due to abuse.

      In 2010, Gonzalez said six children died in Hidalgo County.

      This legislative session, the organization was in danger of being slashed with the buget cuts.

      "Senator 'Chuy' Hinojosa was instrumental in making sure that our funds stay active," said Gonzalez.

      Instead, $2 million dollars was granted to the 169 CASA programs across the state to further their efforts.

      "We speak with every single person that is involved in a child's case while their in foster case," said Gonzalez.

      CASA works mostly with volunteers who clear an extensive background check, receive training and then are assigned one or several cases.

      "Because the worse thing you can do is nothing," she said.

      Melissa Mojica is a student at the University of Texas-Pan American and has dedicated her time to volunteering.

      "You are giving your attention to a child voicing their opinion in a court where it could very easily get lost," said Mojica.

      This year, CASA is serving 122 children with only 52 volunteers.

      They hope to have at least 100 by the end of August.

      If you have the time to dedicate to a child in need and can be an advocate for at least a year, contact CASA of Hidalgo County at 956-381-0346 for information on how you can be an advocate.