Hardcover, illustrated book designed to explain court system
and process, is available in English and Spanish versions
HOUSTON– LAWFUEL –What will happen to me? What is a foster home? What is a judge? Why do I need a lawyer? When can I go home? Will I ever see my Mommy again? These and other questions are addressed in Just for Now: Kids and the People of the Court, a six-color, hardcover book designed to help court appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteers communicate with children ages 6 to 12. Published by Child Advocates, Inc., Harris County’s (Houston) CASA program, the book was developed in response to an overwhelming need.
“The young children in my first case in 2002 had so many questions, and I didn’t have enough resources to explain everything to them,” said Jackie Crowley, a retired teacher and principal, and a current Child Advocates, Inc., volunteer. “I needed a tool that could stimulate conversation and allow them to tell their story, and felt an illustrated children’s book could help them better understand the process.”
After some research, Crowley realized that no such resource existed, and approached professional colleague and friend, Barbara Abell. Together, they put the book idea to work and immediately enlisted Kimberly Morris, of Houston’s Publishing Matters, to provide creative direction and custom publishing services.
With an understanding that children in the court system feel powerless and at the mercy of forces beyond their control, they focused on providing frames of reference for understanding the reasons, logic and processes by which decisions concerning children’s welfare are made.
The book tells the story of Gilbert and Rachel, who are removed from their home by Children’s Protective Services (CPS), and are placed in foster care. In the course of the story, they meet a CPS caseworker, foster parents, foster siblings, an attorney ad litem, a psychologist, a judge, a pet dog and their court appointed special advocate volunteer.
In addition to the illustrated story, the book also includes a simple-to-understand glossary of legal terms and concepts.
Since the book’s limited distribution, Child Advocates, Inc. has found that many children going through the process personalize the book with their own stories, photographs and illustrations, allowing them to feel in control of their lives. It also allows them to better understand and identify everyone involved in the process, and to learn they’re not alone in experiencing family difficulties and temporary foster care.
“I was scared and confused coming into CPS care,” said Nealy, 18, a former foster child and current student at the University of Houston. “I didn’t know what to expect, who to trust or what would happen next. This book answers those very questions and takes away a lot of the mystery and fear that I felt. I hope this book will do the same for others.”
“While the original purpose was specific: to create a communication tool for court appointed special advocate volunteers to explain the court process and its players to the abused and neglected children they serve, we feel the result is something far greater,” said Sonya Galvan, CEO of Child Advocates, Inc. “Our end product is a high-quality book that has been professionally written, illustrated and produced, and holds value not only for children in custody, but for their peers, all of the adults that work with or care about them, teachers, therapists, parents and attorneys.”
For more information about Just For Now: Kids and the People of the Court, which is available for $16.95 plus shipping and handling, please visit www.childadvocates.org.
About Child Advocates, Inc.
Child Advocates, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to mobilize court appointed volunteers to break the vicious cycle of child abuse. Their volunteers speak up for abused children who are lost in the system and guide them into safe environments where they can thrive. More information about Child Advocates, Inc. is available at www.childadvocates.org.
About the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association
The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (NCASAA), together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so that they can thrive in safe, permanent homes. To find the local CASA chapter in your area, visit www.nationalcasa.org.