The Court Appointed Special Advocates organization, more commonly known throughout South Texas as CASA, has a new hero in their ranks.

And her name is Mia Moore.

Having volunteered for CASA and fostered children for years, Moore has now been hired as the program manager for San Patricio County’s first CASA, located at 211 S. McCall St. directly behind Cavaleri’s Kitchen in Sinton.

The new location officially opened Tuesday, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony, food, music and lots more.

“We’ve been incredibly blessed because Judge Flanigan, Judge Whatley and Judge Bauer have seen the work that we’ve done in Bee, Live Oak and McMullen counties, and so they requested that we expand into San Patricio County,” Moore explained.

“There is, as you may or may not know, an epidemic of child abuse here. And it is worse than any other area of Texas according to our judges.

The San Patricio County Child Welfare Board in April gave a presentation to county commissioners and stated that 66,382 children were confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect in Texas in 2018. 230 of those children are from San Patricio County alone.

“I don’t know what to attribute that to other than it could be the drug epidemic,” Moore continued. “There are some significant issues, all of which have led to their being at least 180 kids in foster care right now who don’t have an advocate.

“And that’s why we’re here. To make sure that our most vulnerable citizens have an advocate speaking up for them in court. That’s what we do.”

Moore said that what CASA does is that when an attorney ad litem is appointed for a child by the court, that attorney represents the child’s legal interest and what their desires are as their client.

Then there’s also Child Protective Services and the caseworkers who develop family plans in order to restore the childhoods family of origin.

CASA advocates have specialized training to become an advocate and are appointed by the court to become the guardian ad litem for the children who are in foster care.

“Our job is to know everything about the child’s life medically, educationally, the family history, psychological aspects of the extended family situation,” Moore continued. “We get to know the children. We get to know extended family. And then we make a judgment based on everything that we’ve learned about that child’s life as to what would be the best permanent loving placement for that child. And that is what we recommend the into the court.

“So in effect we are the eyes, ears and feet of the judges. And we report back to them, what in our estimation would be the best outcome for these children.”

Moore, who is a foster to “two bright, shining little girls,” said that sometimes we overlook how powerful the miracles of life are. She said she had taken the girls out to play at a playground, gotten them some hamburgers then some ice cream.

She said the girls looked at her and said, “This is the happiest day of our lives.”

“And those are the moments that you live for. You can make a change and a difference just by doing a simple thing.”

Moore said to contrast that happiness, she recalled the trial of Gregory resident Tawana Shanta Roberson, 27, who was charged with capital murder of her 4-year-old son, Kane McCraney, earlier this year.

The boy was rushed to a Portland emergency room with numerous injuries then transported to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, where he died.

Police Chief J.A. “Tony” Cano said that he was called to the ER when McCraney was brought in due to various scratches, bruises and the child being very underweight.

Moore described the horrific conditions the boy’s body was in after seeing graphic photos in the courtroom day after day and knew she couldn’t let that happen again.

Roberson would go on to receive a life sentence for the boy’s murder.

“We can’t have that on our watch,” Moore said. “Not here in San Patricio County. 

“We are better than that.

“And we’re going to take care of the youngest of our citizens. 

Paul Gonzales is the editor at the News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270 or at mathisnews@mySouTex.com.