Kim Taylor

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What made you decide to become a CASA? 

 My brother-in-law and his wife were foster parents for several years, eventually adopting two children from the foster care system. I saw the difference they made in the lives of the children who were placed in their home.  My sister-in-law told me about CASA and suggested that I look into it.  Many years later, I did – I wish I had not waited so long.

 

What is your professional/ volunteer background?

I started my career as a paralegal but spent most of my working years in sales. While raising our children, I volunteered in my community and in the schools my boys attended.  After my youngest son left for college, I began volunteering with CASA Montgomery County.  Earlier this year I started volunteering with CASA Tarrant County following our move here from the Houston area.

 

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

In my opinion, helping a child in foster care find a safe and loving forever home is work worth doing. So, if you are considering being a CASA, do it now for the need is great!

 

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

While it is a privilege to work with many dedicated and caring people, it can be challenging at times for everyone to reach consensus on determining the best outcome for the child.  

 

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

Being part of a case that resulted in family reunification.  Witnessing the parents overcome their struggles, make significant and lasting change, and being reunited with their children.  

 

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

My first case, after two years and many setbacks, resulted in the adoption of my CASA kid.  I was present at the adoption hearing and witnessed the judge hand my little guy the gavel for him to bang to make the adoption official. 

 

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

I am fortunate to have two friends that are also CASAs. I am grateful for the opportunity to share experiences and encourage each other.

CAS, Allie Phillippi says, “Kim Taylor has done a phenomenal job on her case! Kim’s CASA kids live in Itasca and she has made it her job to work this case and put forth her best possible work. She has built relationships with all parties, has searched, contacted and established familial resources and support for the children, and has done a wonderful job working with me as her Child Advocacy Specialist to troubleshoot issues on the case, streamline our work and build a comprehensive court report for each hearing. Kim is a perfect example of a CASA, and I’m so thankful I get to work with her!”

Karan & David Bridgwater

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David Bridgwater

1. What made you become a CASA?
We decided to become CASA because we have 5 daughters and 21 grandchildren. Three of our daughters have and are serving as foster parents. We also have friends at our church who serve as CASA and have discussed their experience with them. We simply determined that this is a way in which we could become involved and possibly make a difference.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?
I am a retired dentist. We participated in medical missions to Zambia for 15 years from 2002 through 2016. We have hosted 10 foreign exchange students in our home. When our daughters were in the Arlington Public schools I served on several citizen committees for the ISD.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
Do it NOW. Too many children need help to not get involved

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
We have a family of 4 children. Initially they were in 2 different placements 60 mile apart. This quickly became 3 different placements. Then there were the multiple hospitalizations for the boys. Just keeping up with visits as we were just introducing ourselves to the children and letting them know we would always be there for them. Now the boys are all in a RTC together but that is more than a two hour drive away. We still try to make as many meetings as we can.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Watching the children finally connect with us. Seeing the look on their faces when we arrive for a visit.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case? When we made our first trip to the RTC we were able to spend most of the day with the boys. They introduced us to everyone they saw as "this is my CASA". Their behavior was great and we were able to really talk to them to help them understand what they needed to do to get home. Our CPS specialist told us that once, when we were unable to attend a meeting, our little girl asked her "where are the other two?". We believe they are all finally understanding that we are on their side and want the best for them.

7. Why did you decide to work a case together and how has it helped you to be successful?
After my retirement we wanted to get involved in service together. Our medical mission work was always together and it just seems natural to continue our service together. Having seen this case I can not imagine doing this alone. We are able to discuss things and make better recommendations than if we were not together.


Karan Bridgwater

1. What made you decide to become a CASA?
We have three daughters who did foster care and 2 of our 21 grandchildren are adopted. We know the urgent need for support for families in crisis.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?
I, Karan, have been a special education teacher, tutor and camp director with many opportunities to interact with children and their families.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
I would advise anyone thinking of advocacy to step up now, have a partner to work with, and prepared to be changed.

4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
The most challenging part of advocacy is working with multiple children in multiple placements and multiple agencies all at one time. Being limited in our ability to affect wholesale change and accepting that baby steps are reasonable contributions to the future of these children is a big challenge.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Seeing how the children have come to appreciate our consistent and reliable presence had been rewarding. To see the relief and comfort in their faces when we appear is a joy.

6. Please share a special moment with us about your advocacy work with your CASA kid or on your case?
A very special moment for me was when I saw the the results of constant, consistent, structured care open up a child who only cursed, acted out, was constantly moved or removed from place to place. When he started looking me in the eye, taking my hand, trusting me and chattering non- stop, my heart was so full.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?
I have been given much in the way of family, stability and love, and I really want to pass that on.

8. Why did you decide to work a case together and how has it helped you to be successful?
We work together to support each other and because "a pleasure shared is a pleasure multiplied and a difficulty shared is a difficulty divided". We want vey much to model a stable relationship to kids who may never have seen or experienced. We also realize that some children will relate better to either a make or a female figure in their lives.

CAS Shelly Louis says, “They are currently on their first case with 4 children. They both have been amazing in ensuring that the all the children on their case are receiving the appropriate services. They were essential in helping get much needed counseling for one of the children, after stepping up and expressing their concerns in court. They have traveled outside of Tarrant County for visits and ensure that they are available for service plan meetings. They have developed fantastic working relationships with case managers, foster parents, the ad litem, and CPS on this case.”

Christi Diamond

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

I had just retired and wanted to give back, to do something not for me for others.  I really wanted a long term volunteer opportunity and my sister in law suggested CASA and here I am.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?

I was a CFO for an international company for last 19 years. Numbers always made sense to me.

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

Just do it! You are doing more for these kids then you realize by just being there;  coloring, doing a puzzle, reading a book. Your time is all they want when they see you.

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

The most challenging I expect is when you’re done being their advocate, you will miss them, and you will think about them and pray they are doing well.

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

The most rewarding part is the relationships you form with these kids, they are so fun to get to know.  Also, the relationships I have formed with the foster parents—I have had the privilege of getting to know some amazing foster parents.

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

I have had many special moments but one of the best was being invited to go the school awards ceremony at the end of the year where one of my kids received an unexpected award. The look on her face when she turned to all of us that were there for her and that smile was on her face was everything.

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

My husband Tom and great friend Janelle both took the helping hearts training right after I was assigned my 1st case and it is so comforting knowing I can talk to them about the kids on my cases, all the ups and downs.

CAS Emily Beale says, “Christi Diamond is amazing. She has two cases and visits multiple times a month for each case. She has built great rapport and relationships with the family members and fictive kin on her cases, and they look at her as someone they can trust.”

Tim Boney

Tim Boney and his wife and Helping Heart, Tanja Boney

Tim Boney and his wife and Helping Heart, Tanja Boney

1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

CASA is a great organization with a lot of good people helping kids. I feel anyone who has been as blessed as I have should give back to the community, and I am privileged to be part of this amazing group!

 

2.     What is your professional/ volunteer background?

By day I am a Key Account Manager for Ben E. Keith Beverages. On nights and weekends, I have worked with Cooks Children’s and spent many years as a Big Brother at BBBS.

 

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

Go for it! The feeling of helping kids in a difficult time is very rewarding. You will help the kids more than you know and the personal fulfilment is a wonderful byproduct. 

 

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

The most difficult part of being a CASA is keeping a professional demeanor with the kids.  Resisting the temptation to become closer to the kids than the job entails. My kids are awesome, and I would love to help them more than the job allows. I must remind myself that I am not here to fix their problems, but rather to help them navigate this difficult time in their lives.

 

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

For me the most rewarding part of being a CASA is when it clicks with the kids. The day you connect. They have had a hard time and are not sure who to trust. When the kids realize you are going to keep coming to see them and genuinely care what happens to them, the bonding begins, and you can almost feel it in the room. You are making a difference in their lives and they know it.

 

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

My kids moved from their initial foster placement to a new foster placement. When they were moved the CPS Caseworker could not fit their bikes in the car, so they had to leave them behind.  I was able to pick up the bikes and take them over on my next visit. The kids were super excited and acted like it was Christmas morning. It was fun to watch.

 

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

My wife (Tanja) took the Helping Hearts training. This whole experience can be difficult on many levels. It has really helped me to be able to discuss the case with her. She is pretty smart, and her input has been very valuable to me. It helps to have someone to talk to when things are “not fair”.

Child Advocacy Specialist, Chelsey Statham, “After being sworn in Tim jumped right in and was quick to develop a rapport with both of the boys on his case in addition to the foster family and relatives. Tim visited the children regularly at their school and foster home and was instrumental in getting them placed in their current relative placement. Tim  truly advocated for them when the other parties were hesitant to move the boys. Both children are doing well in their placement and in school and look forward to Tim’s visits. Without Tim’s advocacy these boys may still be in a foster home but now they get to live with family and go to school with their cousins. Tim takes the time to visit with each boy individually as well as the whole family to make sure all of their needs are being met!”

Mary Ann Dixon

We want to thank Mary Ann Dixon for being a dedicated CASA Volunteer for 15 years. Mary Ann just closed her 28th case and is retiring from advocacy!

1.     Tell us a little bit about yourself
My husband and I met just after I graduated from UNT. I worked as a computer programmer and later as a systems analyst while he pursued a career in psychology. We are both native Texans and have been married 54 years with 7 children and 19 grandchildren, all living in Texas, which makes for boisterous get-togethers! We are actively involved in our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

2.     What made you decide to become a CASA 15 years ago?
I was introduced to CASA by my sister, who was a CASA in Austin. Her enthusiasm for CASA persuaded me. I would definitely recommend a friend to volunteer with CASA. Three of my friends have done so. By volunteering you will be doing something that is really needed -- whatever your skills.

3.     What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
I think the most challenging aspect of "CASA-ing" has been doing a case thoroughly-- the time constraints and keeping up with all the aspects of the case, learning to balance family requirements with volunteering. Also, of course, keeping gas in my gas tank!

4.     What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
I especially enjoyed the years I have worked in Family Drug Court. l like being able to work as a part of a team, problem solving and assisting each other, and working more closely with parents. I feel like I have become more empathetic and have witnessed firsthand problems that come with addiction, homelessness and lack of family support. I've learned about resources and problem-solving techniques from professionals and CASAs on our team. 

5.     Please share a special moment(s) with us about your advocacy work.
Some of the highlights of my service have been: getting to work with a group of six siblings, 5 years and younger, and also working with 6 sets of twins! My most memorable case was one of 3 siblings who I worked with for 7 years, following them in many placements and ending with adoption 2 years ago. I considered it a real compliment when I was offered a garden snake by one little boy I had worked with for several years.

6.  Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your CASA experience?
Another bonus of volunteering with CASA is the positive effect it has on your family, making them more aware of their blessings and of the suffering near at hand in our community.  GO CASA!!

“Yvonne’s life was turned upside down when her daughter Elizabeth was put into foster care. Yvonne was in the throes of drug addiction during her pregnancy, and Elizabeth tested positive for drugs at birth. Yvonne was devastated and heartbroken. However, she did not give up hope: she was determined to change her life and bring her children home. Elizabeth’s CASA Mary Ann stepped in at the perfect time. She was able to help not only Elizabeth but also Elizabeth’s mother. “Mary Ann had a family of her own and knew the struggles of raising kids. She seemed to truly understand the things that I was going through,” recalled Yvonne. Despite the stress she experienced, Yvonne was optimistic and focused, often relying on her CASA volunteer’s guidance. Mary Ann was proud Yvonne’s hard work in following her treatment plan, and Yvonne was thankful for the consistency a CASA provided her daughter. Yvonne achieved sobriety, attended parenting classes, and eventually was able to bring her daughter Elizabeth home. Elizabeth and Yvonne’s success involved her entire community. Yvonne had family support and was empowered by her child’s CASA volunteer. CASA volunteer Mary Ann helped Yvonne find the strength to speak up for her own child.”

Candy Herring and Sue Nichols

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1.     What made you decide to become a CASA?

Sue: I wanted to volunteer for a worthwhile organization in my community.

Candy: I retired and finally had time to volunteer for a worthwhile organization. Several people had mentioned CASA and I started seeking out information. The more I searched and talked to people the more interested I became. I decided to attend an Information Session and decided a yes.

2.     What is your professional/volunteer background?

Sue: I worked for THRHEB Hospital for 30 years and volunteered for many committees in the hospital and the surrounding area. I volunteered for THRHEB Bluebonnet Cancer Camp for 15 years and after a heart event I became an advocate for the Women Heart of Washington DC organization by volunteering at community health fairs and a co leader for a Women Heart monthly support group.

Candy: I worked for 30 years as a Hair Stylist and then became an Officer Manager for HEB Behavior

Health for 15 years. I wasn’t able to commit to volunteer work before I retired.

3.     What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
Sue:  Attend an Information Session at CASA to learn about this wonderful organization.

Candy: If you want to make a difference in a child’ life just take a little time to go to the Information

Session. Nothing required but your time and you can ask questions.

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

Sue: The most challenging part is the sadness in the children’s eyes yet trying to gain their trust.

Candy: I think for me the most challenging thing is when I knock on the foster home door. I have to

remember to leave my world and self at the door. Then I walk into their world and try to readjust

to their needs and see the world through their eyes.

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

Sue: The most rewarding part is knowing the children are in a safe environment. When Candy and I now visit we get hugs and smiles, we even got homemade valentine’s day cards.

Candy: The most rewarding moments is when you finally see the smiles, get great hugs and hear

laughter.

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

Sue: Two of our younger children were non-verbal when we first met, but now they run towards us and give us hugs. It makes your heart smile.

Candy: One day after a family visitation that was not productive it left the 11-year-old in tears. I sat down beside her and pulled her close and just held her. No words just understanding. That’s

when you know why you became a CASA Volunteer.

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

Sue: The experience has brought forth many emotions both good and sad. As a CASA volunteer you hope your involvement is helping the children move forward in our world.

Candy: As a CASA volunteer you have the chance to be a voice and strength for a foster child and their future.

Child Advocacy Specialist, Luisana Sanchez says, “There are not enough words to say how much of a pleasure it is to work with Candy and Sue! This fierce dynamic duo does not walk away from a challenge. Their current case has 7 children with 5 different placements with different parental visitation days! It is very rare that a visit is missed by these two. The bond that has been formed with this group is what I think CASA’s mission is about. Candy and Sue are amazing with their diligent interaction with the family and communication with all legal parties. I am very grateful for their hard work and dedication to CASA of Tarrant County.”

Caroline Petty

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

I enjoyed the time I spent as a mentor helping a child learn to read, but I always wished I could do more for my mentee when I heard what was going on outside of school. When my mentee moved schools and I felt I had the time and energy to dedicate to CASA, I signed up for an info session and never looked back!

2. What is your professional/volunteer background?

I am a Communications Project Manager with a degree in Advertising. In the past, I’ve mentored through Kids Hope USA. I enjoy building with Habitat for Humanity and I occasionally assist Golden Retriever Rescue Alliance with graphic design.

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

Being a CASA is a serious commitment, but if you are at a point in your life where you can make the time and have emotional space for an experience like this, I really recommend it. It is hard to see children in pain, but it feels so good to help. If you aren’t ready now, keep CASA in mind and look into it when you are ready!

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

The most challenging part of being a CASA has been realizing that justice isn’t always brought against people who abuse children. I try to overcome this by focusing on all the things that are going well in my case and doing everything I can to be sure the child in my case is safe.

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

There have been many rewarding moments, but one that stands out was when the mother in my case called me her CASA. While I was assigned to this case to advocate for her child, I know that helping her is one of the most important things I can do for the child. Building a relationship with her has been very rewarding and I’m so proud of the progress she has made.

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

Recently I walked into the foster home of the child on my case (a toddler) and for the first time his eyes really lit up when he saw me and he lifted up his arms to me for a hug. I have had the chance to watch him grow and learn and it’s really awesome that I am able to help ensure a safe and happy future for him because I care about him so much.

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

The legal system is so complicated and I've often marveled at how hard it would be for me to figure out what I need to for my case if I weren’t blessed with a great education, resources, and support system. It is somewhat disheartening to see the reality of the people involved in CPS cases, but it’s also how I know I am making a difference and why CASA is so important. We can use our resources to help children and families in need and end the cycle of abuse and neglect.

“Caroline consistently goes above and beyond in her work as a CASA volunteer. Since accepting her first case in July 2018, Caroline has built strong relationships with the foster family, biological family, and attorney ad litem, which has been instrumental in moving her case toward family reunification. Caroline has helped connect the mother with resources for her child and even helped the mother with baby-proofing her home to ensure it was a safe space for her one-year-old child to return. Caroline is an amazing advocate and has definitely made a positive impact on the life of her CASA child!”—Child Advocacy Specialist Melanie Navarro

Trina Roberts

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1. What made you decide to become a CASA?

It was actually a co-worker that told me about CASA. We attended the information meeting together.

2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?

I volunteered with Big Brother's Big Sister's many years ago. Other than that I have volunteered at Salvation Army and Mission Arlington most recently.

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

 My experience has been extremely rewarding, but the advice I would give is to enter with an open mind and an open heart as each experience is different.

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

The time management has been the most challenging part. This is not because CASA is extremely time consuming, but more because I tend to overbook...work in progress.

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

The most rewarding part of being a CASA has been meeting so many people in one accord, wanting what's best for the children.

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

I have 2 CASA kids and they are model kids. My special moment would probably be attending one of the girls’ recital because she seemed pleasantly surprised to see me. My special moment with the other girl has just been watching her grow from a baby into a toddler moving all over the place.

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

My daughter just turned 21 and finished college. She is looking forward to attending an information session as she is considering being a CASA volunteer in some compacity. That makes me proud!

Child Advocacy Specialist, Lisa Craig says, “Trina has been an advocate for seven months.  Her first case was a sibling group and part of the Recovery Support Program (RPS) through Tarrant County Drug Court. Working an RSP case has an added element of attending court staffings each month, as well as the visits, and court hearings that are scheduled. Trina has exceeded expectations for her case and has not missed one court setting or staffing. Trina has worked to build a relationship with all the professionals, the foster parents and the parent of the children. Trina works full time, and devotes the time needed to exceed the expectations of being a wonderful CASA Advocate.”

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

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.”