Michael Fadeyi

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?  While vacationing overseas some years back, I had witnessed children who should be in school selling various items on the streets and others just walking around without a future.  It brought me to tears and when I got back, I asked from close associates how I could become a mentor or serve children in the community paying special attention to minorities.  I was introduced to CASA by my in-law (now retired CPS supervisor) and I came to attend the class in 2011.  I have been blessed with the kids I have encountered and God has blessed through CASA.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?  I have been a Pharmacist for over 30 years and been of help counseling alcoholics and drug abusers/addicts.  I have volunteered giving information about drugs of abuse and have written concerning street drugs.  I have spoken to high schools concerning drugs of abuse.  As a diaconate member in my church, I have mentored some of our youths in this area before joining CASA.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA? I would say that it is a blessing to give back to the community by helping someone different that yourself.  To him whom much is given, much is desired. Also I know that person must love children and want to care for them as the future generation.

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?  Researching the Child’s historical ties to others and trying to find those relatives has been a challenge for me.  Sometimes, the phone numbers are incorrect and has not been updated in years.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?  Witnessing a completed adoption or completed transfer of the child to a responsible relative.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case?  A special moment for me was a case in 2012 when I had a 3 y/o whose mom and dad were incarcerated and the closest relative we had lived in Kenya.  With CASA and CPS’s assistance, we persuaded the kid’s grandmother to obtain a visa and come to US.  She stayed with a kin whose home was adjudged adequate to raise the child.  After about 6 months, the granny was allowed with State Department assistance to cater for the child in Kenya and send reports.  I was elated to hear about the approval and the child’s welfare.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?  Nothing beats the joy of assisting a child during a difficult time in his/her  life.  Sometimes it can be very emotional. 

Pam Hall

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

There is a great need to speak up on behalf of abused and neglected children in our community. The question becomes, “How can I make a difference?” After reading an article about CASA, I attended an Information Session where I was inspired to become part of the CASA Team. Being a CASA Advocate allows me the opportunity to have an immediate impact in the lives of children. It is also a privilege to meet and encourage their families and caregivers. I am blessed to be an adoptive parent, and deeply appreciate the good work being done everyday by CASA and CPS.

 

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I retired after 35 years with American Airlines. Recently, my children were thrilled to receive backpacks filled with school supplies donated to CASA by AA.  Through the years, I have loved volunteering with children as a Girl Scout leader, AWANA teacher, and with church & school programs.

 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a CASA?

Please know that the need is immediate. More than 300 children are currently waiting on a volunteer advocate to stand in the gap and be their voice. Being a CASA is a unique and multifaceted volunteer role. In addition to attending an Information Session, I spoke with a current CASA who provided valuable insight. CASA will fully equip you with training, continuing education opportunities and mentorship with a CASA Specialist. The need for consistency, flexibility and dedication to all aspects of your case cannot be overemphasized. This is the most meaningful and life changing volunteer work I have ever experienced.

 

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

My CASA children have endured the challenges of being separated from one another, and individually relocated multiple times. I have partnered with their school counselors and teachers, foster parents and kinship, and my CPS caseworker to advocate for each child’s circumstance. The positive outcomes are well worth the time commitment of building foundational relationships with everyone.

 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

Every aspect of helping children thrive and succeed in the midst of hard circumstances is rewarding. It is pure joy to celebrate the children’s accomplishments, both in school and at home, with them. I am thankful for the opportunity to mentor, and offer words of encouragement and hope. It is rewarding to see partnerships form between kinship and foster parents on behalf of the children’s best interests. My CASA Specialist is so wonderful to work with. She communicates with our team frequently, is readily available to answer questions or collaborate on court reports, truly exemplary in every way.

  

6.   Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.

My CASA child discussed with me selecting Band as an upcoming middle school elective. However, due to his relocation to a new ISD, and delay in file transfers, his elective was overlooked. When I met him for lunch at school, he was disappointed with his schedule. As his CASA, I coordinated with a pro-active school counselor and teachers, located an instrument, and am pleased he is now a proud Band member! I, along with his family, are looking forward to attending his first concert.

             

7.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?   

The opportunity to advocate for each precious child is life changing. I am grateful to be a small part of the great work CASA is accomplishing. As a CASA Ambassador, I eagerly encourage others to become involve

“Pam is by far one of the most thoughtful and intentional individuals that I have the pleasure of working with. Even though the children on her case are in four separate placements, Pam never misses a chance to spend time with and invest in each child. And not only has Pam built great relationships with the children and their caregivers, but the caseworker and attorney ad litem told the Judge that Pam was “SuperCASA.” It is a joy to work with an advocate so dedicated not only to seeing that every child’s voice is heard in the courtroom, but to making sure that every child knows that their voice has been heard. Pam, you are a real-life superhero!!”—Child Advocacy Specialist Allie Jackson

Jay Wilson

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

When I was choosing an organization to support I looked for one that had an immediate need for volunteers, provided direct help to people and could possibly make a difference in the long run. Through CASA I was able to fill an immediate need for an Advocate and make an impact in a child’s life with the hope that they would have a brighter future.     

2. What is your professional/volunteer background?

I retired after 32 years with Lockheed Martin. During that time, I volunteered at Union Gospel Mission, coached youth sports and supported activities at my children’s schools.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a CASA?

I would tell them that they will be gaining a child's trust and for that reason they need to be committed to completing their case.

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?    

The most challenging thing has been to get my children to focus on their future. I emphasize the importance of doing well in school and respecting others. I have learned that it can be a slow process, but the progress is encouraging.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

The rewards come when you see the children start responding to your advice and you see that the time you have spent with them is making a difference.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.

When my child made a point to introduce me to others as their CASA Advocate or when they told their caseworker that I was their favorite person on their case. I have also had an opportunity to apply TBRI principles in a real case scenario that had positive results.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?

When I became a CASA Advocate and experienced the good work being done by CASA and the CASA staff, I wanted to help with recruiting additional volunteers. I got involved in Co-Hosting Info Sessions and became a Men of CASA Ambassador. I share the CASA experience with everyone I know in the hopes that they will also get involved.

"Jay Wilson has been an advocate for over a year, and in that time has made an everlasting impact on the children that he has served. Jay’s positive involvement on the cases has been noticed by judges, attorneys and other legal parties to the cases. Jay continues to serve CASA through other ways by attending three weeks of Camp STRIDE this summer, leading informational sessions, and being a strong asset to the Men of CASA team. Jay exemplifies what it truly means to be a CASA, and has devoted numerous days and hours to advocate for the children in Tarrant County."—Child Advocacy Specialist Alex Nameth

Amy Larkin

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Amy is on two cases and goes above and beyond to advocate for the children on both cases. Amy has been recognized by CPS on multiple occasions for being a tremendous help to caseworkers. Not only does Amy advocate for the children on her cases but also their parents to help achieve family reunification. Amy is dedicated to advocating for every child she comes in contact with and that is evident through her work as an advocate. – Naomi Sawyer, Child Advocacy Specialist

1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

About a year ago I was chatting with a friend about a child I knew that was going through a very rough time.  I was concerned that she no longer had anybody in her life who could speak up for her.  My friend told me about CASA and suggested that I check into becoming an advocate.  Once I learned more about CASA and what the advocates are able to do to help children, I knew I had to be a part of the wonderful change they were bringing about for children.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?

I have worked in accounting, finance, and human resources for over 25 years and I have always enjoyed helping people in my professional roles.  In my personal life, I led a Bible study group for single parents and their children for many years.  After I stopped doing that, I knew I still needed to find a place to help in the community and CASA was the answer to a prayer.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Go to an information session!  Get all your questions answered, and then commit to doing this if you think it is the right thing for you.  I promise you that it is so worthwhile!

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

Being a CASA is wonderful, but it is probably the most challenging role I have ever taken on in my life.  The roller coast of emotions that I feel as I work to help the children on my case can be intense.  There are days filled with excitement and hope and other days filled with disappointment and delays.  Managing these emotions without letting them impact the children on the case or my own personal life can be tricky.  My nature is to want to "fix it" right now for the children on my case and dealing with delays and restrictions can be frustrating, but remembering that this is a marathon and not a sprint helps.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

Watching children learn to trust and thrive amidst very difficult circumstances and knowing that the work I do to advocate for them plays a part in that is so very rewarding.  It takes several people working for these children, including their caseworker, their ad litem, their placement, and many others to achieve results.  Being able to speak up for them and keep their best interests in mind during every conversation is an honor and a privilege.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case?

The youngest child in the sibling group on the first case I took was just under a year old when she came into care.  She was not walking and her progress toward that just seemed to stall for several months after coming into care.  She did not qualify for ECI, so her placement and I talked about many different things to do to help her start walking.  When she was 17 months old, they FaceTimed me one night so that I could watch her take some of her very first steps.  It was so special because they knew how much it meant to me and wanted to share that moment with me.  She is now almost two and is running circles around her foster parents and siblings, so she has come a long way.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?

I am honored to be in the lives of these children and to help advocate for them when their parents are unable.   What I have learned and the ways I have grown since becoming a CASA is hard to put into words.  It has changed me for the better in so many ways.  I feel like it has helped me just as much, or more, than I have helped the children on my cases.

Sandra Reeves

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Sandy has been a CASA advocate since December 2016. Sandy goes above and beyond to advocate for the children. Sandy has recently committed her time to Family drug Court, she meets every other week, two times a week with the Family Drug Court team for staffing’s and hearings. Sandy assist’s parents in what she can so the children can be reunited with their parents. Sandy is dedicated to advocate for the child’s best Interest. – Mayra Guzman, Child Advocacy Specialist

1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

After retiring from teaching for 37 years I knew I wanted to advocate for kids in some capacity. I had not heard of CASA but saw an ad on TV one day. I looked into it and felt that was what I needed to do.

2. What is your professional/volunteer background?

I was a teacher for 37 years.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Just know that you must be willing to give adequate time to your case.

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

The most challenging is keeping yourself from becoming emotionally attached and watching a mother's rights be terminated. I think the latter is very emotional, even though you know it is in the best interest of the children.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

It is very rewarding when you go visit the child/children and they are excited to see you.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.

Watching children become part of a forever family and knowing you had a small part in that.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?

Being a CASA can really have its challenges but knowing that you are there for that child/children adds such a dimension of purpose and satisfaction.  We are there to help the children, but I think in a way they help us also.

Tonisha Meeks

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Tonisha continues to go above and beyond with her CASA case. She was sworn in as a CASA advocate in May 2017, and was immediately thrown into a case that was in desperate need of an advocate. Tonisha attended two parent child visits every week, went to every doctor appointment for the child and advocated for her child in every court hearing. She has maintained strong relationships with CPS, attorneys, biological parents, foster parents and most importantly, her CASA child. Tonisha has been instrumental in determining the permanency for this child, and has demonstrated what a CASA truly is. – Alex Nameth, Child Advocacy Specialist

1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

I was considering returning to school to receive my Masters in Social Work.

 

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?

Currently employed at Bank of America, where I am an Investor Accounting Analyst. 

Through my employer, I have the opportunity to volunteer with different organizations. Outside of  the workplace, I mentor teenage girls in the Delta GEMS program implemented by my Sorority educational development program. Volunteer in the church nursery working with the 5-6 year old.

 

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Make sure you are ready to commit and have a work/life balance.

 

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

Witnessing parents that believe the court system is against them.

 

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

Seeing and knowing your kid is placed in a loving environment and surrounded by a village of supportive and wonderful people.

 

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacywork with your CASA kid or on your case?

Being present to see the child celebrate his first birthday.

 

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?

It will change your perspective about life and you will realize the little things we stress about are not worth it because a child and/or parent situation may be worse than ours.

Emily Mauzy

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

I love volunteering with children.  Kids in foster care are such a vulnerable part of our society. I had volunteered with kids in foster care before and I wanted to make a bigger commitment to helping them. CASA was the perfect role. 
 

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I have been a CASA since June 2015 - so almost 3 years.  I’m also a mentor to 3 high school girls in FWISD schools.  I’m a Certified Public Accountant and work as a Tax Manager at Interstate Batteries.
 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Being a CASA is a very unique volunteer role.  When I was deciding to become a CASA I met with a current CASA for coffee.  She explained the role and the rewards/challenges.  I’d recommend potential CASAs do the same — talk with someone who is or has been a CASA to understand the program and purpose.  

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

Being a CASA can be an emotional rollercoaster!  But these kids deserve someone who is willing to ride the rollercoaster to help them end up in safe, stable environments.  I have become a better, stronger person because of the challenges I have faced as a CASA.

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

The most rewarding part of being a CASA is knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of the kids on my case.  They have caseworkers, therapists, foster parents, etc. change, but I’m always there.  I am the consistent face in their lives throughout their case.  I love these kids!  They are such amazing kids and I am inspired by how they’ve handled the difficult situation of being in foster care. 

6.     Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.

I often play board games with my CASA kids that I use to play as a kid, such as Sorry, PIT and Guess Who?.  Guess Who? is their favorite!  I have played with kids as young as 6 all the way to 16.  Having fun with the kids has helped us to bond.  All my CASA kids will always have a special place in my heart.  

7.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?

It can be a challenging at times, but it’s worth it!

Emily Mauzy has been on a six child case for over 18 months. Not only does Emily meet and go above every minimum expectation, she has a very good relationship with each child’s teacher. Emily was instrumental in contacting an out of state relative and securing appropriate placement for one of the children when it became apparent he was going to continue to bounce from shelter to shelter if he remained in Texas. Emily has had to stay strong and trust her gut on many occasions throughout this long road of a case and had done so without wavering. I have no doubt whatever the outcome of this case that these children are better because of Emily and her advocacy. – Child Advocacy Specialist, Chelsey Statham

Kerry Seibel

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?
 

I became a CASA because I missed working with children and wanted to fill my time after moving back to Texas from California. I mentioned CASA to a friend who works for Alliance for Children and he encouraged me to check into it. I was very impressed that CASA trained their volunteers, so I applied.

 

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?
 

Professionally, I spent many years as a medical office manager and then was a paralegal for a while. Finally, I taught middle school until I retired.

 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
 

I would tell potential CASAs to not wait to begin the training. I get so much more out of it than I give! You don’t have to remember every detail from the training, that’s what your supervisor is for so don’t get overwhelmed.

 

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
 

The most challenging part is “charting” the phone calls, visits, etc. It is not difficult if you keep up with it but sometimes one issue may take three or four phone calls to resolve and they all need to be entered. 

 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
 

The most rewarding part is when a child trusts you enough to ask you for help with a situation. Getting a “thank you” for helping a sibling is special as well.

 

6.     Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.
 

I have not been doing this for very long but there have been special moments with each child. My most special moment was getting a hug for arranging martial arts lessons for this child’s brother. It was so spontaneous that I was deeply touched.
 

7.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?
 

My CASA experience has been so fulfilling that I have friends from California that are looking into being CASAs. Also, I have the best, most supportive CASA supervisor around!!!

"Kerry was sworn-in on June 23rd, 2017 and, after an extended road trip to the view Eclipse, she literally hit the ground running. Kerry is already working two cases (for a total of  6 children in care) and travels regularly between west Fort Worth and Dallas for one of her cases. Kerry has visited schools and daycare facilities, hung out at CPS offices and McDonalds, found swim lessons and karate lessons, and she will be taking a road-trip to Waco before a Monitored Return. Kerry’s kids contributed 6 paintings for the CASA on Canvas. Thank You Kerry, for your passion and dedication to the children of Tarrant County, and beyond!" – Child Advocacy Specialist, Sharon Young

Samantha McCartan

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

I decided to join CASA after seeing and reading several news stories. It took me a while to take the plunge because I wanted to make sure I could truly dedicate myself to the task. I’ve endeavored to be the best daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend I can be but I was lacking in the best humanitarian department so I decided to try and rectify that fact.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I was a stay at home mom. I had volunteered at the local mission, pet shelter, hospital etc while my own children were in school but when they went off to college I had more time to devote to other things.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

To anyone who is thinking about becoming a CASA my advice would be, don’t hesitate. It will easily be the most gratifying volunteer job you’ll ever do. Simply put, I strive to make everyone else look good and feel good.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

There are days when I find it challenging to respect the boundaries of the job. I’d love to swoop up my CASA children, take them out to eat, shopping, appointments etc; but the rules are in place for a reason.

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

I find it astonishing sometimes how much other people-far more qualified than myself who are involved in the case-will listen to CASAs; we are just volunteers after all. Therefore, it is so rewarding when you see significant changes occur in your CASA childrens’ lives and you know you’re part of the reason it happened.

6.     Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.

I love getting to know the children in my cases and it would warm my heart when I visited them and they would drop what they were doing and come and sit and talk to me. You start as strangers and it takes a while to earn their trust so when you eventually do, it’s a beautiful thing.

“Samantha has completed two different cases with two very different endings during her time here at CASA and did a wonderful job on both building rapport with the children and their relative caregivers.  Samantha  is very invested in her cases and goes above and beyond to make sure the children on her cases are getting the care they deserve. Samantha is a wonderful example of how a CASA  should work  alongside the department and lawyers to reach a decision that is in the best interest of the children!” – Casework Supervisor, Chelsey Statham
 

Carol Birdwell

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?
Many years ago, I received a call at school from a caseworker asking if I had ever had a certain child in my class. After confirming that the bright, clever girl had been in my class, the caseworker informed me that the now 14-year-old girl had run away from an abusive home and attempted suicide through a drug overdose.  As the now 14-year-old was coming out of a near coma, the CW had asked her whom she wanted her to contact, and this child only wanted her to locate the three teachers in elementary school that had loved her and encouraged her creative, free spirit.  Ever since, I have been haunted by the sad reality that this child had to go back almost 2 to 3 years to find adults who cared about her and with whom she felt safe.  Years later, after seeing a CASA billboard, I went home and researched the program.  CASA was an answer to my prayers and became my new mission in life!

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?
Professional:  I have a Masters Degree in Education with certifications in Gifted and Talented and Learning Disabilities. After 39 years in education, I found a seamless transition for my teaching skills through becoming a CASA Advocate and a mentor in the Kids’ Hope program.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
Just do it! Attend the informational meeting.  Become a Helping Heart and    observe first hand what is expected of an advocate. Talk to advocates who have been working cases and share your questions and concerns.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
Advocates must maintain a balance between their compassion for the children and their objectivity in dealing with the realities and legal aspects of the case in order to make the best decision for the future of the children involved. It is not always easy. 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Working as a team with my supervisors, caseworkers, and ad litems, I have completed two cases in which all the children involved were placed in good homes that will allow them to live safer, happier lives. 

6.     Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case.
Up until now, my current child has never had a CASA in the 6 years he has been in foster care, and he is extremely guarded with his thoughts and feelings.  I feel great joy that he now smiles when I walk through the door and teases me when he beats me at Master Mind.  These are baby steps in breaking down that wall that surrounds him.  

“Carol is the GAL on a case and so good at connecting with the child. This child has been disappointed by adults numerous times and has learned not to trust. Carol has been instrumental in building a connection with this child and has been able to get him to trust her and open up. She has been the perfect advocate for this case!”—Casework Supervisor Teri Reed

Brian Jolin

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"From the moment Brian took his first case, he hit the ground running. He quickly gained rapport with all parties, and continues to develop these relationships as the case progresses. Brian has consistently shown his ability to maintain professionalism and show compassion, while tackling difficult situations that have arisen during his case. I am confident that Brian’s efforts as a CASA will have a lasting and positive impact on the children he advocates for."—Casework Supervisor Kara Franklin

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

I decided to become an Advocate in response to what I saw as a toxic political environment in 2016.  It was time to roll up my sleeves and do meaningful work rather than just complain about system.  I also had recently retired from coaching my son’s athletic teams as he reached high school, and felt I had the hours a week to devote to CASA.
 

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I have volunteered at FUMC FW as a youth counselor and a children’s Sunday school teacher.  I volunteered many years with The Thursday Boys.  I spent several years coaching my son’s baseball, soccer and basketball teams.  My professional life is centered around owning and operating Jolin Promo, a local promotional products distributor with a focus on apparel.
 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Do it, you can make a real difference in the lives of the kids as well as learning about the CPS system and being able to advocate for meaningful changes to public policy.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

The biggest challenge in my current case has been to not be judgmental in regard to the birth parents.
 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

It is rewarding to know that I have been able to help give my sibling group a voice, and that I was able to help get them out of a very bad foster situation.
 

6.     Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case?

Being able to hear one of my kids refer to their foster mom as “mom”
 

Judy Stempel

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

I was at an interfaith meeting where the group was discussing adoption and fostering from our various faith traditions. One woman talked about being a CASA and had brought her CASA Supervisor, who also spoke. I thought to myself, “I could do that.” I thought I had both the time, the temperament and the gifts to be a CASA, and it was something concrete I could do to make a difference in the life of a child.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I am retired clergy. I am currently active in my congregation and serve on the Board of Stewards and co-chair of a committee that plans and executes an annual Film Festival.  At the retirement facility where I live, I am chair of the Wellness Committee. In the past, I have served on the boards of Tarrant Churches Together, Planned Parenthood and Women’s Policy Forum.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Realize that it is a major commitment, and don’t do it unless you are willing to follow through. The children you will encounter have already had adults who let them down, so if you tell them you will have lunch with them at school or visit at their placement, then DO IT when you say you will.

What the kids need most from their CASA is caring, consistency, and someone who will go the extra mile to go to bat for them. As a CASA, you will also need to develop relationships with others who are in the children’s lives, i.e. CPS caseworker, foster or kinship placement, attorney at litem, school contacts, psychologists, biological parents, etc. You will also write court reports, which must be in a specified format. You do not do this all alone. Your CASA supervisor will work with you and share the load.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

For me, the most challenging part of being a CASA had been the time management aspect of it. CASA requires certain types of visits monthly, as well as others quarterly. I frequently travel, so I have to plan and schedule my monthly requirements carefully in order have them done in the required time period. Also, I usually have no control over when court dates are scheduled. There have been times when I have been out of town, and my supervisor has covered for me.

It is also challenging to see children in difficult circumstances, many of which I cannot fix.
 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

The most rewarding part of being a CASA is my relationship with the children and the hope that my efforts will give them a better chance for a productive life.
 

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?

This has been my first CASA case, and apparently it is a complex one, as it is actually two cases. I have appreciated my relationship with my CASA Supervisor, who has been very responsive to my questions. We have worked together to try to get the best outcome for the children.

“Judy is one of the first advocates that I have had the privilege working beside. She readily agreed to a companion case and has created lasting relationships with each child in which she advocates. She has exhibited strong character as well as compassion throughout her time as one of CASA’s brightest. She has been amazing to work with and defines the partnership that exists between a CASA and a supervisor. She is reliable, always helpful and is a blessing to work with. Thank you so much Judy for speaking up for children that would otherwise risk being silent.”—Casework Supervisor Robert Campbell

 

Sandy Kunze

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

When I was ready to retire, I wanted to find a volunteer opportunity that would make a difference in the lives of children.  A couple of ladies I worked with had told me about CASA and it sounded like a good fit for me. 

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?

I retired in 2011 from Federal Law Enforcement.  I had been a Federal Agent for 25 years.  I have done volunteer work through my church in many different capacities, I deliver Meals on Wheels (as a substitute), I volunteer with the Mansfield Police Department. I am also a member of both Arlington and Mansfield CERT (community emergency response team). It is a volunteer organization that is trained to respond in emergencies such as tornadoes, etc.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

I would tell them that it is not something to take lightly, that our role as CASAs is a very important role in the lives of the children that we serve.  It can be a very rewarding experience, but sometimes it can be heartbreaking.  However, whatever the outcome, our services are definitely appreciated and needed. 

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

Not being able to immediately fix the child's situation and make it all better right away.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

Being part of helping to get these children and their families through one of the toughest situations that they will ever experience.

6. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?

Having a background in law enforcement, I feel that being a CASA has allowed me to use some of my expertise and training for a very important cause.  I have been a CASA for a little over 5 years and I look forward to continuing for many more years to come.

Casework Supervisor Lillian says: "Sandy is a very dedicated advocate who has been with CASA since 2012.  Sandy always goes the extra mile on her cases and develops amazing relationships with all parties involved.  She is a true advocate and isn’t afraid to take on the difficult cases.”

Lisa Dixon

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

Well, I wanted to volunteer somewhere. I've always had a passion for disadvantaged youth and adults. I kept searching my heart about how to volunteer in that capacity. Then one day, I saw the television commercial about becoming a court appointed advocate on behalf of children in the foster care system. A light bulb went off! I said to myself, "That’s it! I want to do that!” I applied, interviewed, went through training, and here I am.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

I was in the U. S. Army and we had a little joke about volunteering. We said that if you're ever asked to volunteer, then do it because then you get to watch everyone else participate after you volunteered! It was true. So, volunteering stayed in my blood. I volunteer at work and at church. I just raise my hand instinctively even without knowing the task and it's been more favorable for me than not. For me, the blessing is in the giving back. There is something to be said about doing something for others without receiving a monetary reward! It just works.
 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

I would highly recommend it. It's rewarding not so much because of what a CASA does, but more so because of the value that is placed on what you do. You give of yourself, your time, and your ability to care about someone other than yourself. I would tell them part of the reward is just in getting you off your own mind and thinking about someone else's needs.
 

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

The most challenging part of being a CASA for me has been the sacrifice of my own time. I'm really selfish with my own time and I'm a strict time manager. So, being a CASA forces you to work around the schedule of others in so many, many instances. It's been a blessing as well because I didn't know I would or could sacrifice my precious selfish time and not mind doing it.
 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

The most rewarding part of being a CASA is the blessing of not having myself on my mind. As a CASA, you're forced to allow your needs, time, and concerns to take a back seat. And once you do that, you are grateful to be able to meet someone else's needs. It's self-gratifying to meet the needs of someone so very less fortunate than myself.
 

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?

Being a CASA is so selfless. It's amazing the character it builds and enhances in a person. No value can be placed on the work of a CASA. Or, the reward received from being one. It's been a real blessing for me. I really love it because I'm not on my mind!! Thank you for the opportunity to experience this blessing.

Casework Supervisor, April Bolden says: "Lisa Dixon has been a wonderful addition to our team of Advocates! She has been very proactive on her case and has developed rapport with all of the parties and the family. Lisa is not afraid to reach out to me if she has any questions or concerns, and is always wanting to learn more and help as much as she can. She has a very bright, engaging personality with a beautiful smile to match!"

Sheila Austin

Casework Supervisor, Chuck Gilliatt wrote: “I come back from vacation and my Team Lead, who was covering for me, tells me about something that happened in court. My advocate was waiting for her case to be called and her attention was drawn to another hearing on the docket. The child was present in court. The judge had heard from the parties about the ordeal this teenage girl was going through, then spoke to her in the judge’s chambers. The two emerged with tears in their eyes. This advocate was so moved by what she had seen and heard that she immediately asked to be assigned as the CASA for that child. She already had two cases.

That advocate is Sheila Austin. 

Sheila completed pre-service training on September 30, 2011. Since then she has had six cases, all teenage girls. As a former foster child herself she wants to be the advocate for these girls that she did not have during those difficult times. Her personal experiences have helped her empathize with foster children, to listen and clearly communicate their needs to the court, caseworkers and attorneys. Sheila’s dedication and persistence has made a big difference in the lives of these girls. She has an unwavering focus on the needs of the child and does whatever is required to serve the child’s best-interests. In court, she has a depth of knowledge and compassion that is respected by the Judge and all parties to the case. 

Thank you Sheila for your passion, perseverance and long-term commitment to foster children in need. I am blessed to be able to work with you, but more so are the children whose lives you touch.”

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

When I was a child I was in the foster care system in another state. My experiences with the various foster families that I lived with ranged from very negative to very positive. As a result of these experiences, it is my passion to be the advocate for foster children that I did not have available to me.
 

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

Before joining CASA I was a Realtor with RE/MAX. Prior to being a Realtor I worked in accounts payable for a local company in Arlington, TX. While raising our children I was an active parent with all of my children's activities like PTA and sports/booster clubs. After our children graduated I began working in the Women's Ministry as a Secretary at our church and I lead a women's bible study.
 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?

Being a CASA is a rewarding yet challenging opportunity to serve those that need a voice in our community. To do this effectively, you need to be able to put yourself in these children's shoes and to be able to listen and clearly communicate their needs to the court, caseworkers and Ad Litems. It is also important for the advocate to have their own support system such as other advocates that can be leaned on for guidance and emotional support.
 

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?

With the overwhelming needs in our community, there are times when the resources and systems are also overwhelmed.  Being an advocate sometimes requires persistence in making sure your foster child's needs are met with the right resources.
 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?

Knowing that I have been a small part in helping a child either find a forever home or return to a more healthy home that will provide the protection and love that every child deserves.
 

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?

Besides the joy of being able to help children through a very difficult time in their life, I'm very blessed to have met and worked with some incredible people that have a true heart for children.

Sylvia Barrett

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?
I have a (long time) dear friend, who was a CASA Advocate for many years.  She was passionate about helping the children she had been assigned.  She visited their daycare centers, schools, homes, playgrounds, etc.  She also attended Court Hearings and was present for parent visitations.  In all of her dealings; she kept one focus "what is best for this child?".

After I retired from teaching, a speaker came to the Arlington Retired Teachers Association to talk to our group about CASA.  Hearing the need for more volunteers, I decided to look into it.

Based upon my friend's deep commitment to her CASA children, this speaker, and the information I received at the first meeting I attended; I decided to pursue this volunteer opportunity. 

2.     What is your professional/ volunteer background?
I taught Elementary School for almost 4 decades in the Arlington Independent School District.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
I would encourage someone considering this role, to make a commitment to "be there" for the children assigned to him/her.  What that looks like may change as the children's situaton changes.  For "my 5 children" that means showing up at their schools (to attend events or eat lunch with them or attend conferences), reading to them on a regular basis, playing board games with them during our home placement visits, or helping the child with a school project.  Each case is different.  Each child will have different needs.  The common strand; is that ALL children need to feel accepted, valued, and cherished (no matter what age the child may be).
 

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
The most challenging part of being a CASA Advocate, for me,  is the lack of a "shared vision" among all the agencies involved with the child.  There does not appear to be a common goal of all working together and communicating openly for the best interests of the child. While I assume we are all "on the same team" and pulling together for the child; that does not always seem to be the case. 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Working with my Supervisor, Ms. Sarah Barker, has been a huge asset.  She is always supportive of my "best intentions" for my 5 children and gently guides me to see the "whole picture".  While I am not familiar with all the legal proceedings and expectations from CPS; she is always willing to give me the facts and explain the "whys" of my questions.  She has the patience of a saint!

In addition; the Lunch Bunch trainings are awesome!  I try to attend these each month so I can stay current on the latest developments in Foster Care/CPS.  The speakers are knowledgeable and offer a wide variety of topics that impact our children in Foster Care.  It is also an opportunity to see fellow CASA advocates for a brief time.

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?
Because of my strong educational background; I am very focused on my 5 children's education.  Being in Foster Care, many times these children are overlooked or unrepresented.  They often have many "gaps" in their learning due to excessive moves or lack of attendance.  Once the children are in Foster Care; they attend school regularly.  However, the "gaps" in their learning creates a challenging situation for teachers, Foster parents, and the children.  When schools know that someone is going to be there on a regular basis and check on the children; there tends to be a higher level of awareness about addressing the educational needs of the children in Foster Care.  I have had the opportunity to meet some outstanding school counselors and teachers (across the grade levels) who truly invest in meeting the individual needs of children in Foster Care.  Simply knowing that a teacher cares and is actively involved in the daily routine at school, makes a huge, positive difference for my 5 children. 

“Sylvia has been an advocate for two years.  She has had one extremely difficult case with five children. Sylvia has been with these children through changes in placement and school as the most consistent person on this case. While the two youngest children have been adopted, the three older children remain in care, in a relative placement.  Sylvia meets at least quarterly with each child’s teacher to advocate for the children’s educational needs.  Sylvia has been such a dedicated advocate. Her passion to help the children on her case is absolutely inspirational.”—Sylvia's Supervisor, Sarah Barker

Mike and Graciela Chase

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Quote from Team Lead, Jaime Hernandez: “Michael and Graciela Chase were one of my first assigned advocates when I began working at CASA as a casework supervisor. From the very beginning, after assigning their first case, they displayed an unparalleled commitment to the welfare of the children and the family in their case. The family they were working with spoke only Spanish and were in need of a lot of support to navigate the CPS system. Michael and Graciela went above and beyond by staying with the family through the different appointments, helping themfigure out cumbersome government paperwork and aggressively advocating for acquiring a wheelchair that one of the children so urgently needed. Michael and Graciela visited the children almost bi-weekly and worked closely with the relative placement to insure the safety of the children. They communicated consistently with all parties in the case. More specifically they talked with therapists and doctors, counselors and attorneys as well as the CPS caseworker to ensure the needs of the children were met in full. Their caring attitude, professional demeanor and tireless advocacy sets them apart.”

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?
Mike: Two years ago we invited recently retired friends from Denton County for dinner. During dinner, I asked one of them what he was doing during retirement. He said he was a CASA Volunteer in Denton County. As a bilingual (Spanish) person he said that bilingual volunteers are badly needed and in short supply. He recommended that I, also bilingual in Spanish, attend an information session. I then signed up for an information session and talked my wife, Graciela, into going with me. Long story short, after the session we agreed to sign up as a team to work multi-children cases. 

Graciela: Mike decided to go to the information session and of course he talked me into going with him. I learned about the worthwhile services CASA provides to neglected and abused kids and decided to be part of it. I feel very blessed in my life and I want to give some back.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?
Once we retired, I became an investor in real estate and natural resources. Additionally, while in college, I took two years off and accepted a Peace Corps assignment to Guatemala (1963-1965). Before retirement Graciela worked in courseware design and development of technical training for several companies. In April 2016, we completed the CASA training and began our first case involving four young bilingual children. This case was completed the end of January 2017.  We started our second case of four bilingual children in April of 2017. 

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
Take action; sign up for an information session; and be open and flexible to any situation you may
encounter because every case is different.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
Understanding the variety of services available through CPS and Human Services to the relatives who agreed to accept the children into their family all of a sudden. Accredited Foster parents know this stuff already. But Grandma and Grandma of children have no clue and do not always understand child welfare. Additional training in this area would have been helpful. 

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Seeing the happiness on the faces of the relatives and children when the court awarded permanent managing custodian (PMC) status. Also, seeing the kids thrive and little by little get better with their new family.

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?
Continue to learn and pray for guidance.

Richelle Tilghman

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?
Before I had ever heard of CASA and the wonderful work they do, there was always a sense of helplessness when I would hear terrible stories on the news of neglected children or the needs of foster care children.  I knew I wanted to help but had no idea how and the scope just seemed so large it was hard to see how one person could make a difference. Enter a friend who invited me to her company’s fundraiser which was benefitting CASA. Once I learned what this incredible organization does, I knew this was exactly what I needed to do to help the kids of my community.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?
I have been a makeup artist for sixteen years and a proud mom for seven.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
Go to an information session! Being a CASA volunteer isn’t for everyone but more people are suited for it than they might think. These children in care need someone who is a consistent presence, someone to speak up for their needs. It doesn’t take much time but can make all the difference in the trajectory of a child’s life. We can’t wait around and hope someone else will step in and help—it is up to us to get into the fray and do what we can to make our little part of the world a better place.

4.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
Realizing firsthand the system isn’t perfect has been incredibly frustrating. Decisions are sometimes made without your child’s best interest in mind despite your best efforts.

5.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
There isn’t a better feeling in the world than your kiddo finally getting a forever home, whether that’s back home with his mom who has worked so hard to come back stronger and better than before or getting officially adopted by the family that has loved her like their own since the first day she came into their home as a tiny foster baby.

6.     Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?Being a CASA for the past four years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am extraordinarily proud to be a part of this organization.

“Richelle is an exceptional CASA Advocate, she has been Advocating  for more than 4 years. For the 7 months that I have been working with Richelle, I have admired the dedication that she has for the children. Richelle is a strong-willed person and does not hesitate to voice her concerns in court for the best interest of the children.  As a Casework Supervisor I am fortunate to be working with an Advocate such as Richelle. “—Mayra Guzman, Casework Supervisor

Nicole Clark

Spring is in the air, and so is a wave of transition and change. We all adjust ourselves to the warmer weather and face looming pre-summer deadlines, but on the whole, transition is a calm, expected part of life. Not so lucky are the many children in our own county who face countless uncontrollable transitions every day, from being shuffled between schools to being shuffled between homes. The level of uncertainty these children face is unimaginable for most of us, but for CASA advocate Nicole Clark, 31, it is a reality she sees in her casework regularly.

“Things get misplaced in the many transitions,” Clark said of children in foster care who she serves as a CASA.

“In school, they deal with homework, then there’s STARR testing coming up, and then there are medical concerns like keeping up with glasses.”

Often-times children in care are facing transitions that keep them from succeeding in school. Clark explained the importance of recognizing the needs of children in care that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

“Child Protective Services does everything they can, but having a CASA means someone is paying attention to those children on an individual level.”

CASA provides an important opportunity for these children: nearly one on one attention throughout their entire time removed from their homes. When a child on one of her two cases celebrated a birthday recently, Clark mentioned how valuable CASA was to the child. Along with another advocate assigned to the case, Clark made sure that the birthday was personalized and special to the child.

 “[The child] was just ecstatic to get gifts from people who really knew [the child],” Clark said. “Most of the time if a child in care gets a birthday present, it’s something out of a grab bag, but we were able to give [the child] something special and personal.”

Clark’s Casework Supervisor, Amanda Spharler, considers Clark a model advocate at CASA.

“Nicole is a dynamo,” Spharler said. “She never stops asking what she could do to improve the child’s situation, and then takes action to make it happen.”

Being a great advocate means more than being able to build a great rapport with the child. In regards to Clark’s role as an advocate in court, Spharler reiterated that Clark has been an incredibly effective volunteer with CASA throughout both of the cases she has taken thus far.

“Nicole has great instincts when considering the best interest of the child, and although she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she is very thoughtful about remaining neutral instead of siding with the adult parties in the case,” Spharler said. “She never forgets she is there for the child.”

While some advocates are unable to continue to help children following the closure of a case, Clark has taken the initiative to identify how she can continue to help the children she served in her last case. Clark maintains a prominent role as an advocate for the children who need her.

“She has visited schools, talked to counselors, helped her kids explore college options, and has even taken a teen to tour colleges after she was no longer the CASA on the case,” Spharler said,

While clear to outsiders that Clark is a standout volunteer, Clark herself maintains that her role as an advocate comes from a place of understanding her own advantages in life.

“I look at my life and my own family and I realize that we’re so blessed,” Clark said. “It’s not a child’s fault that he or she is in this situation.”

The children served by CASA face uncertainty and possibly stressful transitions during their time in care, but CASA’s advocates, like Clark, provide a single constant upon which these children can always rely.

“Every child needs someone looking out for them,” Clark said. “That’s why I do this.”