Each year, Texas CASA hosts a cocktail reception during the Texas Child Welfare Judges Conference to thank the judges for their support of CASA, honor their work for children and families, and applaud their achievements and innovation. This year, we went virtual, with the support and partnership of the Texas Center for the Judiciary and the Texas Children’s Commission.
At the reception, we specially recognized three judicial leaders for their commitment to children and families involved in the child welfare system: Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, Judge Peter Sakai and Judge Delia Gonzales.
Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman was given special recognition for her 10 years of leadership as Chair of the Children’s Commission.
Judge Peter Sakai was also recognized for his leadership in bringing the San Antonio/Bexar County community together to identify and support older and transitioning youth to attend and succeed in college. ⠀
Judge Delia Gonzales received the Texas CASA Judicial Innovation & Leadership Award for her role over the Child Protection and Permanency Court in Dallas County, a relatively new specialty court that focuses on the needs of children and youth in permanent managing conservatorship. In her acceptance speech, Judge Gonzales talked about the power of the permanency court and the difference it is already making for children and families.
“We recently had an older sister adopt a younger sister and the younger sister said to me that she felt like she had life in her again,” said Judge Gonzales.
In her opening remarks, Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs acknowledged the importance of strong judicial leadership during this time of great change—not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the Texas child welfare system’s ongoing rollout of Community-Based Care and planning for the implementation of the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act next October.
“As all of you know, our Texas child protection system is in a time of challenge and immense change. Adapting to the limitations imposed on courts by the COVID- 19 pandemic along with all the stress and adversity it has created for Texas children and families has been significant,” Spriggs said. “We know there have been some ‘silver linings’ in your adaptations, however, we are acutely aware of the obstacles you have ably stepped up to address and conquer to keep children safe and cases moving toward conclusion.”
Without partners like Justice Guzman, Judge Sakai and Judge Gonzales—and the other child welfare judges who joined us—the CASA movement would not have the reach or impact it does today. Thank you for your leadership, commitment and service. You help make Texas a better place!