David Setzer has been a member of the Texas CASA Board of Directors since 2015. He has been a a part of the CASA movement for many years, serving first as a CASA volunteer and, from 2004 to 2015, as a founding board member for CASA of Ellis County. Setzer is currently the Executive Director of Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, one of the 28 local workforce boards.
How did you first become involved with CASA?
So, in 1986, my wife came to me and said, “I want to do this thing and advocate for kids in foster care.” And I said “Okay!” And she said, “And you’re gonna do it with me!”
So the organization we started with was FOCAS – Foster Child Advocate Services. Of course, this was before there was a Texas CASA, and the branding hadn’t come around yet. Foster Child Advocate Services was the forerunner of Dallas CASA. We were active for about three years. I started into this as an adjunct to my wife, and quickly I saw the power and impact of a CASA volunteer, even 33 years ago.
In 2004, Judge Carroll was the county court judge. I had known Judge Carroll for a long time, and Greg Wilhelm for a long time, too. I was mayor then, of Midlothian, Texas – so when Greg and the judge started putting together public support for a CASA program in Ellis County, I attended several of the community engagement events they were doing. That kind of morphed into me becoming a founding member of the board for CASA of Ellis County in 2004. Greg was the founding board president. I stayed on that board in various capacities until 2015 and held various positions, including being president of the board for two years.
In 2015, I exited my leadership of the Ellis County program and got on the Texas CASA board alongside Greg.
What motivated you to become a part of the Texas CASA Board of Directors?
I wanted to continue my influence on CASA and bring a different skillset to the table. I’ve been an elected official, a guardian ad-litem and a local CASA board member for 11 years. With my connections with the Texas Workforce Commission and the work they do with youth in care, I thought I had a lot to offer. I knew it was a great group of people, so I applied and was selected to be on the board.
Now I have an opportunity with the Texas CASA board to help formulate policy for the system as a whole. The things that are happening are very exciting. I’ve kind of been at all levels of the service delivery model, and I’ve just really enjoyed it.
Tell us about your passion for flying and the other volunteer work you do.
I’ve been flying for 53 years. I worked in aviation for about four years in my youth and wanted a career as an airline pilot, but I couldn’t because of some physical issues. But I kept flying over the years.
I started volunteering as a pilot for Angel Flight in 2012. Angel Flight is part of a nationwide network of pilots that provides free transportation for medical-needs patients. Many times to get the medical care they need, patients have to travel large distances. For many of them that’s problematic. Angel Flight provides no-cost transportation to those patients, and it made a lot of sense to extend that benefit to CASA volunteers who were spending a lot of time and money visiting kids in remote placements.
In 2014, Dallas CASA started working with Angel Flight, led by Program Director Chad Frymire. The very first Angel Flight mission for CASA was July 2014, and I flew Chad and a volunteer up to Vernon, Texas so they could visit with a child that was in the state hospital up there. I flew them up there, flew them back and they just raved about it. Basically, it was taking the volunteer three to three-and-a-half hours to drive up there, then three-and-a-half hours to drive back. I cut about two-and-a-half to three hours off of her commute time to fly up there, and it was a whole lot less stressful.
I’m also a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Through that group, we provide introductory flights for kids from 8-17 years old, called Young Eagle flights, at no cost for them. It energizes kids and gets them interested in aviation careers. I’ve flown around 80 young people over the past 4-5 years.
Tell us about Workforce Solutions, and specifically the resources and support provided to youth who’ve experienced foster care.
I’m the Executive Director of Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, one of the 28 local workforce boards. We oversee all of the workforce programs, all the federal funding that comes through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). One of the funding streams there is supporting youth, and we’ve done a lot of work with youth who’ve experienced foster care. What we do with these youth, especially the ones approaching aging out of the system, is we start working with them – making sure they’ve got their drivers license, financial management skills, a true exit strategy and a job that will pay them a living wage. It kind of complements the DFPS Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) process.
One of the things we piloted last year was working with a Marshall’s department store to do paid internships for youth in foster care. It was a pilot program in partnership with DFPS. We piloted that project and we won the Service to Foster Youth Award from the Texas Workforce Commission in 2017 and 2018. We don’t know if we’ll get the “three-peat” this year, but we’ll try!
What does CASA mean to you?
It’s an opportunity to have a part in improving the system that is there to serve the needs of youth in foster care. I’ve worked across the gamut, I’ve been a guardian ad-litem, a local CASA board member for 11 years. It’s a fantastic opportunity to take your skills and apply them at a very high level to a wide range of issues that drive the entire state. CASA is setting policy and direction for the entire state. I would encourage everyone to take their experience and apply it to a good cause like CASA.