Once Mike Waguespack was sworn in as a volunteer with CASA for the Cross Timbers Area, Executive Director Judy Walker made sure he hit the ground running.
“The very first case I got was kind of an older case, and was actually a runaway. The child had been missing for almost a year, and nobody was really looking for him, to be honest with you,” Waguespack said. “Judy said, ‘Hey, see what you can do. We haven’t been able to find him.’”
Amazingly, Waguespack did what no one else had been able to do – he located the child within three months of being on the case. The boy had found his way back to his mother, who had moved to Crystal City. Without Waguespack, there’s a good chance that he would have never been found.
Over his six years serving as a CASA volunteer, Waguespack has demonstrated a talent for locating “forgotten children,” having worked multiple cases involving kids who have gone missing or have run away from their placements.
How did he develop this skill, you might ask? He was in the FBI for nearly 30 years.
Originally from a small town outside New Orleans, Waguespack began his career teaching at a private high school in Louisiana. When the school closed, he was out of a job; and one day, his chief-of-police uncle asked him if he’d ever considered joining the FBI. He had thought about it, but never seriously – until then, at least.
“One thing led to another, I got interviewed and got accepted to the FBI in 1972 and went to Washington D.C. to begin,” he said.
Waguespack spent three years as a fingerprint examiner until he was selected for New Agent Training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in 1976. During his time as an agent, he worked on everything from bank robberies and kidnappings, to counter-terrorism and espionage. As a senior FBI executive, he served on the staff of the National Security Council under President George Bush Sr., and continued for a year under the Clinton Administration. He officially retired in 2002, but spent the next 9 ½ years serving in an advisory capacity in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Waguespack and his wife, Frances, moved to Stephenville, Texas, in 2011, to be closer to their daughter who graduated from TCU in Fort Worth. Their daughter introduced him to Sonny Lyerly, her friend’s father who was a CASA volunteer and a former college professor in criminal justice.
“I told him, ‘I’m kind of looking for something meaningful to do here,’ and that was when he told me about CASA,” Waguespack said. “I took his advice and went to see Judy Walker and said ‘Hey, I’m interested… if you’re interested in me I think I’m interested in you,’ and we kind of took it from there.”
So far, Waguespack has served on 13 CASA cases and advocated for 29 children. His unique skillset and his heart for children make him a strong advocate and role model for kids. One case, in particular, has always stuck with him.
Jacob*, age 7, struggled with serious anger issues, which meant he couldn’t live with a foster family. Instead, he was placed in a highly restrictive Residential Treatment Center (RTC). But Waguespack took the time to get to know Jacob, and worked with CPS, his therapist and others to help them understand how to better support him and address his needs. Jacob may have had difficulties, but at the end of the day he was still a kid – a kid who had experienced trauma, rejection and loneliness the likes of which no child deserves.
“That’s the case that’s in my heart. He’s just one that has stuck with me,” Waguespack said. “Jacob had nobody, and I became the male role model for him that helped him through this.”
Today, Jacob is out of state care and has been adopted by a loving family. He’s doing extremely well, and the two stay in touch. Waguespack recalled getting a very memorable late-night call from Jacob’s parents, around two years after he was adopted.
“It was a call from the dad. He said, ‘Jacob’s been crying; we can’t stop him. We don’t know why he’s crying, but he wants to talk to you.’ They give the phone to Jacob and he’s sobbing. I say, ‘Jacob, what’s the matter, why are you crying?’ He said, ‘I miss you.’ I said, ‘Why are you missing me?’ ‘That little puppy you gave me.’”
The first Christmas he knew him, Jacob wanted a puppy – he couldn’t have one, but Waguespack had given him a robotic one as a gift.
“He took it to his adoptive home with him, and that evening, he happened to see it in his closet and it reminded him of me,” Waguespack said. “That’s what makes the difference…that’s why I do this.”
Waguespack is involved in a number of other organizations in addition to CASA, including the Catholic Diocese of Forth Worth as a safe environment coordinator and training facilitator to protect minors from sexual abuse. He’s also a member of Team Adam with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) – a team of retired law enforcement professionals who deploy to the scene of a child’s disappearance and offer specialized assistance to investigators and families.
But CASA above all others, he said, has truly become his calling.
“It’s just become my mission to be honest with you,” he said. “All those issues related to child sexual abuse and so forth…that’s what I feel I’ve been called to do at this point, and CASA is really the piece that I can really go out and make a difference. Work hand in hand, one on one. In other programs I don’t do that, and this gives me the ability to interact with these kids and truly look out for their best interest.”
*Name changed for privacy.