As Debbie Jensen stood before the Little Elm Town Council on Tuesday she shared the story of a young girl who faced a challenge as soon as she was born.
Jensen, executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County, told the story of a girl, who she called “Gabby,” who was born two years ago on the couch of a temporary home in Little Elm.
She described her surroundings as being embroiled in drug use and domestic violence, leading the baby’s older sister to run away.
Jensen said the parents kept Gabby in a shed for several days to hide them from investigators.
“Gabby was finally found by law enforcement and spent weeks in the hospital fighting for her life from a staph infection that still plagues her today,” Jensen said. “That she was found at all was a testament to the cooperation of CPS, law enforcement and CASA of Denton County.”
Jensen said situations like this aren’t uncommon in Little Elm. Jensen said Gabby was one of 39 children removed from their home because of abuse in 2019. She said that number jumped to 50 in 2020.
“CASA of Denton County served them all,” Jensen said.
She said it cost the organization $2,000 to serve each child and provide them a year of advocacy. She said that includes recruiting, training volunteers and supervising them through the difficult work they do in the court system.
Jensen said Gabby’s CASA advocate, Laura, has worked with her for two years to try to find her a safe forever home.
Jensen said Laura has an appointed legal role with Gabby.
“So she has a real part in Gabby’s life as she as she goes through this process, like all of our over 200 volunteers,” Jensen said, “from Little Elm and other communities throughout Denton County serving more than 750 children last year.”
Jensen asked the council to consider partnering with CASA of Denton County for future funding. She said a request from Little Elm could be around $7,500 a year, which is similar to what the organization receives from Carrollton, a city she said is similar in terms of the number of children it serves.
Jensen said the organization receives $145,000 in government grants from cities across Denton County.
“The amount we receive fully funds advocacy for only 72 children, but you know we served over 750,” Jensen said. “But still it’s a key component to our funding, which comes from many different sources, including federal and state grants and of course many, many individual givers.”
Decisions on organization funding from municipalities typically takes place during the budget process in the summer.