Dear CASA Community,
I keep thinking back on some of the amazing stories we’ve had the honor of telling over the past few months—a volunteer who went above and beyond to celebrate a child’s birthday, another who reconnected two boys with their father in Mexico, almost entirely using Zoom, and another (a new story in this month’s edition!) who helped a loving mother reunify with her three children this past June after two-and-a-half years.
These true stories, and many others we’ve heard and told, illustrate what we already knew before the pandemic began: CASA volunteers are special people. In quarantine, they’re still finding ways to go beyond the minimum of staying safely connected with children and families. They’re not just advocating. They’re innovating, protecting, transforming, delighting.
Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that we’ve been hearing from CASA programs across the state that volunteers are eager to visit the children and families they serve in person. Virtual contact just isn’t the same. And some advocates, newly sworn-in during the pandemic, have only met the child they’re advocating for through a screen.
I appreciate and understand how frustrating this has all been. I’m right there with you. I also understand that each community is facing different levels of COVID-19 exposure, and some programs are at higher risk than others. With this in mind, we recently worked with a group of CASA programs to develop resources and considerations for safely reopening offices and resuming in-person visits. Whatever your community’s circumstances, we hope these protocols will help your program ensure that any in-person visits deemed necessary occur with important safety measures in place. And above all, know that even if you can’t safely show up for a child in person, your advocacy is still as critical and meaningful as ever.
In this edition of The CASA Voice, we also dive into the 2020 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which examines how effectively our nation was caring for children pre-pandemic. As you’ll see, we have a long way to go here in Texas, and the outbreak is only exacerbating the issues families face.
We also speak with CASA of Travis County’s Alejandro Victoria about how we can apply an equity lens to our advocacy, and with Jamie Bernstein of the Children’s Commission about the intersection of child welfare and juvenile justice.
And, we examine concrete methods and ways that CASA volunteers can best set older youth up for a healthy adulthood. This article is a preview of the Health Advocacy Guide that we’re releasing in the coming weeks. You’ll find all of this and more as you read this edition.
As each day goes by, I’m more and more inspired by this movement. Because of your amazing spirit, commitment and care, CASA has continued to safely recruit and train volunteers to be fierce advocates for the children and families we serve.
Thank you for all that you do. Please continue to be safe and mindful. Know that Texas CASA is here cheering you on.