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CASA asks for state funding, new legislation in Austin
Photo courtesy of CASA of Collin County - CASA staff (in blue) from all over the state visited the Texas Legislature this week to provide a strong voice for CASA and the children it serves. Texas CASA requested $6 million in state funding and pushed for two bills to address issues related to prescription medications and foster home switches.
By Chris Beattie, firstname.lastname@example.org, @CB_StarNews on Twitter
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Collin County staff joined Texas CASA in Austin this week to ask for $6 million in additional funding and to push for bills to address protocols for prescribing foster children pyschotropic medication and moving them between foster homes.
Susan Etheridge, CASA of Collin County executive director, was among those who spoke with state Reps. Jodie Laubenberg, Van Taylor and Scott Sanford about CASA's needs and desires for 2013 and beyond.
"Statewide, CASA only serves about 49 percent of children in foster care," Etheridge said upon her return from Austin. "Fortunately, in McKinney, we're able to serve 100 percent, but with the influx of children,[Child Protective Services] experts say that without additional dollars, that may not continue, and that would be terrible."
If the state decides to give additional funding, CASA of Collin County - one of 69 CASA agencies in Texas - would "certainly get some of it," Etheridge said, though how much depends on if Texas CASA decided to use a base allocation (for each agency) or allocate more to those agencies in communities with the most unserved foster children. Only 30 percent are served in San Antonio, she said.
Texas CASA members are also seeking legislation that would require informed consent and second opinions in regards to prescribing foster children certain medications used to treat depression and other mental issues. Etheridge said some of the meds are too often used to treat behavioral issues that could be addressed in other ways.
"Plenty of studies have shown that children in foster care receive these medications much, much more than other children, without much consideration for the drugs' side effects," she said. "Children as young as 4 are being put on strong drugs."
Another proposal made this week was for legislation that would mandate more, better prep work for placing children in a foster home, in hopes of reducing the amount a child is moved from home to home. Children moving as many as 12-15 times is "much more common than people realize," Etheridge said.
"Proper work is not being done up front for determining a good match for each kid," she said. "The bill would require group meetings with all involved - foster parents, lawyers, judges - so the number of moves is reduced."
Last legislative session when Texas CASA requested $4 million from the state was the first time they'd asked for additional funding in several years, Etheridge said. During visits to the capital, she said, CASA staff simply informs legislators of their mission, issues and ideas. Etheridge stressed that, as a 501(c)(3) organization, CASA is not a lobbyist.
"We're just there to provide information to legislators so they can make good decisions about how they're spending money," she said. "It's far too early to tell if we've had an impact this time, but I feel really good about it."
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