By Vicki Spriggs
Chief Executive Officer of Texas CASA
My Dear Community,
I’m writing to you from my kitchen table today.
The City of Austin’s shelter in place order went into effect on March 25, and all Texas CASA employees are working remotely. It’s been more than a week at this point, but it’s still a strange feeling to be communicating entirely over email, phone and web conference.
But when I think of all of the healthcare workers who are working hard to fight this virus and care for those who are sick, I remember that new technology, replacing in-person meetings with conference calls, and the occasional learning curves and tech hiccups that ensue, are worth it – so that we can stay home, flatten the curve and help keep our communities safe.
Those of you on the front lines of healthcare and mental health care, thank you. Caseworkers and CASA advocates learning to use virtual visits, thank you. Those of you continuing to provide essential services, such as grocery store workers, pharmacists, gas station managers, restaurant staff and construction workers, we see you and appreciate you. Those of you who’ve lost jobs, are sick or are caring for sick loved ones, or are otherwise struggling in unforeseen ways because of this pandemic, I’m so sorry. Know that your community is here for you.
I recognize that this is an uncertain time for all of us, and that many of us are feeling fear and anxiety over things that we cannot control. But I want us all to remember: what we can control is our own actions. So now, I want to take a moment to offer encouragement to those of you who, like me, are staying home. Prioritize love and family in your life right now.
I know it hasn’t been easy, but it’s critical that we continue to stay inside as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus, protect our elders and our chronically ill family members, and protect our healthcare workers and others on the front lines. Now, I recognize that our office is very lucky to have the means, equipment and ability to have been able to smoothly transition to remote work. I know that there are offices and professions where it hasn’t been so easy. In addition, with school closures, there are folks who are struggling to juggle working from home with keeping their children safe, educated and entertained. Right now, all we can do is our best, show ourselves and others a little grace, and offer each other love and support.
We can also continue to prioritize our physical and emotional health. In this time of social distancing, it’s more important than ever that we stay meaningfully connected with our friends, loved ones and colleagues in safe ways. Check in with the people who are important to you. If you are struggling, don’t keep it bottled up – find a friend or family member you can open up to, and make sure they know they can talk to you if they’re struggling, too. If you’re getting more specialized mental health support, keep up with your medications and with your healthcare professionals. Make sure to care for yourself physically as well, by eating balanced meals when possible, staying physically active, and getting outside when you can. The better we care for ourselves, the better we can care for others.
As you may or may not know, April is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Though things have taken an unexpected turn, our mission to raise awareness of abuse and neglect, protect children and strengthen families continues, with passion, policy and action.
In this month’s edition of The CASA Voice, you’ll find a deep dive into child abuse prevention – what it is, what it looks like in practice, and what you can do on an interpersonal level to help prevent abuse and neglect in your community. In Conversations with CASA, our video series, I also talk with Kate Murphy of Texans Care for Children about parental substance use in Texas child welfare cases; and how advocates can help keep these parents and their children safe, healthy, and whenever possible, together. We also feature a new episode of our podcast, CASA on the Go, covering normalcy for children in foster care – it’s difficult times like these when young people will be most in need of daily, familiar supports.
As you continue to care for yourself and your loved ones during this time of our collective challenge, I hope you’ll keep the children and families CASA serves in your mind and heart. CASA community, please reach out to those you are serving, assisting them to get online and to set up video chat accounts so that you can stay meaningfully connected with children, families and foster families. We will get through this together, and it will take each and every one of us doing our part, with great love and dedication to keeping all of our communities safe and strong.
Wishing you safety, support, resilience and good health.
Yours in service,
If you are not currently involved with CASA, I ask you today to consider how you can play a part in making a difference in the lives of children and families in crisis. Are you ready to take the first step towards becoming a CASA volunteer? Visit BecomeACASA.org. You can also support the work of Texas CASA by making a secure online gift that will benefit the local CASA volunteer advocacy programs across the state.