On June 25, 2019, CASA Executive Directors from programs all across the state got the opportunity to attend tea with Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott. The First Lady arranged the event in the effort to gain a better understanding of CASA’s role within the foster care system, as well as the relationship CASA has within different local communities.
Because space was limited for the event, the First Lady invited leaders in the CASA network that she felt could provide a diverse perspective in terms of geography, program size and more. Invitees included:
- Sandra Borne, CASA of Southeast Texas
- Stephanie Cash, Hill Country CASA
- Gary Douglass, Big Country CASA
- Lara Escobar, Amarillo Area CASA
- Anna Futral, CASA of McLennan County
- Page Hall, CASA of the Coastal Bend
- Tim Hornback, Golden Crescent CASA
- Kathleen LaValle, Dallas CASA (unable to attend)
- Dora Martinez, CASA of Cameron and Willacy Counties (unable to attend)
- Jaclyn Morris, CASA of the South Plains
- Shelly Smith, East Texas CASA
- Natalie Thornton, CASA of the Pines
- Veronica Whitacre, CASA of Hidalgo County
Attendees were treated to a tour of the historic Governor’s Mansion, after which they spent more than an hour at the dining room table having a great, productive conversation about CASA and the issues affecting each local program. The First Lady asked each attendee questions about their local programs, service areas, strengths and needs, and local funding.
The group also discussed challenges like the shortage of foster homes and the need for more CASA volunteers, specifically touching on the fact that many CASA programs have more children in care in their communities than their program can serve. The First Lady was deeply invested in the conversation, and is specifically focused on engaging communities and faith-based organizations to help, said Golden Crescent CASA Executive Director Tim Hornback.
As a special surprise, the First Lady also presented each attending CASA program with a check on behalf of the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee!
Giving back has always been important to the First Lady. Her signature initiative, Texanthropy, promotes volunteerism and service to others across Texas. She has also partnered with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on the Network of Nurture initiative, to raise awareness about ways Texans can support children and families in the state’s child welfare system. She and her husband, Governor Greg Abbott, are longtime supporters of CASA – in fact, they were honored as champions for children and youth in the Texas child protection system during Texas CASA’s 2016 Champion Recognition Luncheon.
On behalf of the CASA network in Texas, we want to thank the First Lady and Governor Greg Abbott for this opportunity, and for their investment in our movement and leadership on child protection issues! Their combined efforts have been instrumental in advancing the CASA network and bringing about positive change in Texas.