By Vicki Spriggs
Chief Executive Officer of Texas CASA
Normally I reserve these posts for my present thoughts, but seeing as I haven’t quite come down from the high of our 30th Anniversary conference, I think I’ll start with a little reflection.
When Jane Quentan Piper founded Texas CASA back in 1989, our original purpose was to help form new CASA programs so that every child in the foster care system could have a CASA volunteer. Since then, the CASA network has grown from 13 programs to 72 strong serving more than 30,000 children all across Texas.
Not only have we grown dramatically over the years, but we’ve also helped pass legislation that has made a monumental difference for children and families. With support from the legislature, the CASA network, and our advocacy partners, we’ve addressed issues like the overmedication of youth, the need for normalcy, mental health, access to services, improving the system’s response to allegations of abuse by children in care, using a trauma-informed approach and more.
There is so much to celebrate, both in terms of the CASA movement’s growth and Texas CASA’s growth as a leader for the CASA programs and the system as a whole. As I celebrate this, I keep in mind one of my favorite sayings: “Only mediocre organizations are always at their best.” We know we must change as needs and information change, and we know that change without a plan is a recipe for disaster. So we’ll keep on planning, anticipating and seeking more ways to improve – because the children and families we serve deserve nothing less.
Looking to the future, we’ll continue as always to work with the CASA programs to strengthen the advocacy CASA provides. Children are more likely to have positive outcomes when they can stay meaningfully connected with their families and communities. We’re leading the way for family-focused advocacy through Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), our Family Finding partnership with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). CFE has been making waves in how CASA volunteers approach their advocacy since it started in 2016. With the continued work and dedication of our CFE team, DFPS, the CASA programs and our partners, CFE is on track to go statewide by 2023.
We’ll also use our role as the statewide organization to maximize CASA’s presence and leadership within the sweeping changes happening in the child welfare system over the next few years. With the move to Community-Based Care (CBC), the upcoming implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), and the welcoming of new DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters this December, we will be proactive in forming and strengthening relationships with our child welfare partners, new and old. We’ll continue our work to remain at the forefront of the child welfare community, and keep the CASA network informed about what these changes will mean for us, the system, and the children and families we serve.
As we reflect on the past and look to the future here in our 30th Anniversary year, we’re ever mindful of the gift of the present. And here in the present, I want to recognize the serious heart and commitment that it takes to be a CASA volunteer, and the difference that quality advocacy makes for children. Each one of us – volunteers, supervisors, trainers, directors, office managers – is making sacrifices to create a brighter future for children in care. For that I thank you – those of you who were with us in the past, are with us in the present, and will be with us in the future.