The Blanco County Commissioners Court designated April as "Child Abuse Prevention Month" during regular session on Tuesday, March 24.
In 2014, there were more than 3 million child abuse cases reported in the U.S. and with more than 65,000 in Texas alone. In Fiscal 2013-14, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area served Child Protective Services (CPS) cases involving 386 children.
Kristen Harris, the Executive Director CASA for the Highland Lakes Area, thanked commissioners for their efforts to combat child abuse.
"I want to thank you for helping to raise awareness of the issue," Harris said. "CASA does receive some funds from the county that allow us to continue doing the work we do, which is recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers in the community to work with children that are in foster care and to work with their families in hopes of either reuniting them with their parents or finding another safe, stable permanent home for them."
She was joined by members of the Blanco County Child Welfare Board in support of the proclamation issued by county judge Brett Bray.
"They also do a great job of supporting families that are involved in the foster care system, as well as families that are at risk and just need some extra assistance, so I would like to thank them as well," Harris said. "I also want to thank the Hill Country Advocacy Center members who are here. They also help support families and children who are in need of services to help avoid child abuse and neglect."
Harris also said CASA is always needing volunteers. According to Harris, CASA volunteers get to know the child and gather information from everyone involved in the child's life, including family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and social workers. In order to become a CASA volunteer, a person must be willing to commit at least one year of time, able to effectively communicate orally and in writing, be willing to participate in an in-depth training program, and be able to pass criminal and CPS history background checks. Volunteers must also be older than 21 year of age.
An application and additional information can be found at its website, www.highlandlakescasa.com.
In other business, the county announced the hiring of Chris Wiemers by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, filling an agent vacancy. Wiemers has 34 years of teaching experience as an agriculture science instructor. He has been the agent in Comal County for the past three years.
"We are very happy to have Mr. Wiemers," Bray said. "I think he will do an outstanding job."
Wiemers is planning to relocate to Blanco County and will begin his new duties on May 1.
In a non-action item, Bray said that he and Pct. 3 commissioner Chris Liesmann had met with the Red Cross, which urged the county to form a disaster action team.
"They [the Red Cross] suggested we have a committee of four people," Bray said. "That made me think that we have four commissioners and if each of you could find people to draft for the disaster action team — which is no small commitment I understand — that would be great."
In another non-action item, Bray said the Texas Historical Commission visited the old jail at his invitation to look at potential options of how to best utilize the historic facility.
"I think I know the minds of the four commissioners and former judge [Bill] Guthrie that this is a property the county wants to hang onto," Bray said. "We want to retain control of it. But on the other hand, everyone knows that if you have a facility of any sort that just sits empty, it deteriorates. In this case, [the Johnson City] town square is reinvigorating."
The Texas Historic Commission told Bray that it is essential that the outside of the building must retain its historic appearance; however, the county wants to find a way to make good use of the building. Leasing old jail and turning it into a bed and breakfast has been suggested. Whatever the ultimate decision, Bray is encouraging commissioners to consider possibilities.
In other action:
• Johnson City Mayor Dawn Capra was appointed to the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization;
• Russell "Rusty" Weirich was appointed to the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee; and
• an appraisal of the old county annex was accepted, although the county has not yet decided whether to sell or lease the property.