By: Sarah Snyder
They're calling it a massive shortage. CASA of West Texas, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, say the number of abuse cases have spiked leaving almost 100 children without someone to take up for them in the courtroom. Since NewsWest 9 last reported on their need for volunteers, their numbers have more than doubled.
94 children across West Texas are without a volunteer to represent them in court. Most of them are under the age of five.
"In the past few months, we've seen a rise and we're going to say the economy plays a role in that," Suzy Milliken, CASA Recruiter/Volunteer, said. "The holidays are a huge stressor on families."
Suzy has served for three years as a volunteer, but because of the growing need, she's now also in charge of recruiting.
"We've had a number of cases that have come into Midland and Howard Counties that we need volunteers for," Milliken said.
You might recognize this volunteer: Randy Prude is a Midland County Commissioner, but over the past several months, he spends about an hour each week with children who have been neglected or abused.
"Every little kid needs a chance at life and a lot of them don't have a chance, so it's been very satisfying seeing these kids get placed in a good home," Prude said.
He says, spending time with that child, then representing them in court builds a bond that let's them know someone is on their side.
"I've seen a child go from a really horrible situation healthwise, to behaving like any normal little girl: happy and smiling and having brothers and sisters around and having a chance at life," Prude said.
Because there are so few volunteers, he's even doubling up the caseload.
"When we have a crunch, we ask volunteers to take on additional cases," Milliken said. "We have several volunteers that are currently doing that."