Supporting Those Who Support Texas Kids with the Volunteer Coaching & Advocacy Program

Texas CASA is constantly evolving to best meet the needs of the CASA programs and the children we serve. While we offer trainings and resources for board members, recruiters, trainers and executive directors, we realized a gap existed when it came to targeted support for case supervisors. To meet this need, our Program Operations team began forming a support program for supervisors – now known as the Volunteer Coaching and Advocacy Program (VCA).

Led by Volunteer Management Specialist Lisa Briggs, VCA is a resource, support and training program specifically tailored for staff members who supervise CASA volunteers. Prior to coming to Texas CASA, Briggs worked as a Volunteer Supervisor and Program Director at CASA of Southeast Texas in Beaumont from 2010-2016.

“The focus is to provide training, resources and support to Volunteer Coordinators and other program staff who work directly with advocates,” she said. “I have a special place in my heart for case supervisors because I was one. It’s such a difficult job and can be exhausting and emotional, but also the most rewarding position.”

Case supervisors provide support, training and guidance to CASA advocates, playing a critical role when it comes to retaining volunteers and ensuring quality advocacy. VCA focuses on shifting from direct supervision to a coaching-focused model. This will allow for volunteers to have more accountability and independence when it comes to handling their cases. It will also guide them towards identifying the roadblocks to their goals and what plan of action to take to reach those goals, rather than their supervisor directing or making decisions for them when they face an issue on their case.

Another key component of VCA is new instruction on advocacy and the legal roles of CASA/GALs, derived from the Texas Family Code. This guidance will help volunteers better understand their legal responsibilities and abilities, creating more independent and empowered advocates.

VCA has already been rolling out across the state with four regional trainings held across Texas this past summer. The trainings had a wonderful turnout, with two having to create waitlists to handle the amount of interest from the CASA network. More trainings are currently being planned for Fiscal Year 2020, with new additions to the curricula that will build upon and improve past trainings.

VCA is rolling out with the help of two consultants, Mindi Masten and Hannah Fryer, who are conducting ongoing site visits to help programs identify their needs and develop their goals.

Masten, who comes from a background in mental health, was previously the Program Director/Volunteer Coordinator for Waco-based CASA of McLennan County. Throughout her time working with various local CASA programs, seeing the impact of VCA has been her favorite part.

“Getting the emails, texts or in-person connections with the network letting me know that, ‘Hey, remember what we talked about and the ideas that you shared? It really worked, and it has changed the way I work with my advocates!’ That’s my favorite,” said Masten.

Fryer previously served as Program Director at Child Advocates – CASA of Red River in Wichita Falls. She believes that VCA is a much-needed resource and provides a great amount of support.

“Our volunteer coordinators are the ones who problem-solve on demand, provide words of encouragement, and support our advocates in every aspect of their work. It was critical they had some easy-to-implement tools and easy to access support to ensure the heart of the work at our CASA programs is strengthened,” said Fryer.

Through her onsite visits, Fryer has seen many moments of joy, but the ones that impact her most are moments of vulnerability.

“In sharing that vulnerability, I watch the team immediately grow closer and more connected. Those kinds of connections sustain us when the work becomes difficult or emotional,” she said. “Those are the bonds that help teams ensure no one loses hope in the hardest days of our work, and celebrate the joy that comes when you persevere and create change for a child in care.”

Masten and Fryer will be visiting various CASA programs across the state as we continue implement VCA. With almost 400 case supervisors in the state, VCA is filling a previously unmet need in the CASA network. This program will have an impact on the operations of local CASA program staff and improve the advocacy CASA volunteers provide, creating stronger CASA programs and better outcomes for the children and families we serve.

If you have any questions about VCA, please contact Program Management Specialist Lisa Briggs at [email][/email].