Sarah Crockett is the Public Policy Coordinator for Texas CASA. Sarah grew up in Idaho and has a bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy from Northwest Nazarene University, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan in Social Policy and Program Evaluation. Sarah served as associate director of the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health prior to joining Texas CASA in late 2014. She has significant experience advocating for children, both legislatively and in her role as a CASA volunteer for CASA of Travis County. She served as the Chair of the Prevention Committee for the Child Protection Roundtable from 2014-2016, and has also served as a board member for the YWCA of Greater Austin since 2017.
Tell us about yourself and what drew you to public policy.
I’ve always just loved learning about systems and people, and the ways that people make decisions. I was a political science and philosophy major in undergrad in Idaho where I grew up, and I really enjoyed learning about ways of thinking and the political system… but I was really left with a lot of urgency around fixing all of the challenges that I spent four years learning about. So, I went to get my master’s in Social Policy and Program Evaluation at the University of Michigan.
How long have you worked for Texas CASA, and how did you get involved with the CASA cause?
I’ve been with Texas CASA for four years as of last week! I wanted to work for Texas CASA because I was familiar with them in my previous work advocating for infants and toddlers, and I had been a CASA volunteer since I first moved to Texas in 2010. I believed in CASA because I knew firsthand the impact CASA made in the lives of kids, and I wanted to work for CASA at a statewide level.
I wanted to take my advocacy from the courtroom to the Capitol!
Tell us about your work as a CASA volunteer.
I’ve been a CASA volunteer since 2010 when I first moved here. It’s one of the hardest and most rewarding things that I’ve ever done. It’s been really interesting to see firsthand the challenges of the foster care system and how little control CASA volunteers have at times on being able to support the children they advocate for – which really highlights for me what I have been able to do which is be a really important relationship in [my CASA child’s] life.
I haven’t always been able to control placements and the way they’ve worked out, but I have been able to support him, and be on this journey with him, and keep his best interests at the forefront this whole time. And I’ve been able to help him maintain relationships with his siblings, who have all been adopted.
How does your CASA volunteer advocacy affect your public policy work?
I think it keeps everything that I do in my job super relevant, because I really feel very connected to the challenges kids in foster care face. And I feel a real sense of urgency to keep fighting at a systemic level to make things better.
It’s really hard to not remember children when I’m advocating for policy, because there’s a particular child in my life that I think about a lot when I think about all these policies.
Can you speak on Texas CASA’s plans and hopes for the upcoming 86th Legislative Session?
I think that going into this session, right now, we have the most robust set of legislative priorities that we’ve had since I’ve worked here. I think we have an ambitious set of goals, and we are feeling relatively optimistic. We’re focusing on healthcare in an intentional way for the first time; we’re focusing on improving some of the legislation that we’ve already passed in previous sessions. We are looking at strengthening the foster care ombudsman statute, cleaning up the normalcy legislation, and strengthening the surrogate parent statute as well. In addition to that, we are continuing to look at trauma and improving everything related to preparation for adult living for our older youth.
I think there is the greatest opportunity for us to make improvement to the way that we prepare young people to become adults, and there’s going to be an omnibus bill related to that. We’ve been working really hard over the interim to figure out how we can do better as a state, and I think we have some strong recommendations. I’m excited about the opportunities that will be coming out of that work.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
It kind of varies on the day – but I think one of the things I like the best about my job is just the huge number of stakeholders, and volunteers, and staff and other child advocates I get to work with from across the state. It’s really empowering to feel connected to so many people who have the same goals and the same passion for making things better for kids in foster care. It’s hard to lose motivation when you have so many people behind you, who support you and all want the same thing.
As a CASA volunteer myself, I feel so honored and privileged to be able to represent all of the other volunteers from around the state when I’m at the Capitol. Our volunteers have really hard jobs, and I know that. I think it’s really hard work and it’s really important… I feel like I’m making things better for the kids, but also the volunteers who are working with the kids!