SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — Several years ago, Tyler Spears adopted his child and was inspired by a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer’s dedication. He decided to become one himself.

Children within the foster care system are often neglected and/or abused. A CASA is specially trained to advocate for children within the system.

“That blip in their time is important but doesn’t define them,” CASA Advocate Tyler Spears said.

He says in our area alone, there are currently 250 children in foster care. The Louisiana CASA Volunteer for Youth Justice serves Bossier, Bienville, Caddo, Claiborne, Jackson, and Webster.

On average, when a CASA is on a case, the child spends half the time in foster care and is half as likely to go back into foster care.

Spears says being a CASA, “It’s special. When people think of children in foster care, their heart immediately breaks, but when you see these children. They’re children! They’re happy…it’s really fun to interact with them, but know you count for their wellbeing.”

His primary motivator – advocating for the children’s best interests and helping them empower their own lives.

“Every kid deserves a chance in life. Every kid has dreams of being a doctor or teacher or driving a big truck, and to know that there’s someone in their life who is advocating for them. So they can achieve those dreams,” says Spears.

CASA volunteers have special training to understand the foster care system and learn how to manage children who’ve experienced deep traumas.

  • Louisiana CASA mural at Volunteer Youth Justice in Caddo. Gigantic hands holding four children of different ages and ethnicities in the palm of said hands. The children are looking back towards the Earth.

“There are tough days, sure – we’re talking about children, and we’re talking about their lives. We’re talking about permanency, and there’s a lot of brokenness in our area and this world. So, navigating that can be challenging, but there’s a support system for advocates.”

From baby to teenager or a group of siblings, CASAs are allowed to choose the type of case they take on.

“On the day-to-day, you’re talking to teachers or doctors – but really the children and finding out what their needs are and so you can tell the courts: how the child is doing and what can be done to better serve that child.”

Spears says the reactions vary between trepidation and excitement when children meet a CASA.

“They may take some time to see if they [the CASA] are someone who they [the child] can trust.”

He says the training process to be a CASA is ‘not long and it’s rewarding.’

Louisiana CASA is taking volunteers on a rolling basis, and the hours are flexible. Spears urges people willing to spare a few hours a month to “Look into CASA, how you can advocate with CASA for children in our neighborhood.”