Texas CASA & Children’s Commission Host Judicial Appreciation Reception

Children’s Commission Founding Director Tina Amberboy and Judge Dean Rucker with Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs.

On Feb. 24, Texas CASA and the Children’s Commission hosted the annual Judicial Appreciation Reception at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin. The reception’s main goal was to honor judges working on child welfare cases and inform them and other attendees about Texas CASA’s initiatives and impact.

“CASA can only do its work when it is appointed by a judge,” said Vicki Spriggs, CEO of Texas CASA, highlighting the importance of judges in the work we do. “Thank you for the strength of your partnership and leadership in each of your districts, but also at a statewide level through the amazing work of the Children’s Commission. We are proud to do our work alongside such dedicated and innovative leaders.”

Honoree Judge Dean Rucker with Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs.

Texas CASA honored Judge Dean Rucker with the Judicial Innovation & Leadership Award for his outstanding work, innovative leadership and support. Judge Rucker is currently the Presiding Judge of the Seventh Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, Senior Judge of the 318th Family District Court, sitting by assignment. In the past, he also served as a charter commissioner for the Children’s Commission as well as their Jurist in Residence.

Judge Rucker was also instrumental in the establishment of CASA of West Texas, serving Midland and surrounding counties.

“His leadership in child welfare extends far beyond his bench and far beyond this state,” Vicki said of Judge Rucker. “He is a powerful advocate and advisor in child welfare and family law and we have all been touched by his willingness to reach out beyond the bench to improve the service we provide to children and families.”

During the reception, Vicki also highlighted the outstanding work of the 72 local CASA programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs found new ways to recruit and train volunteers, and those volunteers learned quickly how to serve children and families even with many physical limitations to overcome, Vicki said.

“As always – but perhaps with new urgency in the face of so much change and upheaval – CASA strives to be a stabilizing and protective element in a child’s experience in foster care,” said Vicki. “Given all their dedication to purpose, creative thinking, and hard work it took to maintain the quality service children and families deserve, I don’t think I am out of order in recognizing CASA staff and volunteers across the state.”

Vicki also highlighted the continued rollout of the Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), attributing the influence of CFE to why 43% of cases with a CASA advocate appointed ended in reunification last year. By comparison, 22% of cases without CASA ended in reunification.

Alongside Texas CASA honoring Judge Rucker, the Children’s Commission also recognized Texas Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Harriet O’Neill, Chair Emeritus of the Children’s Commission; and honored Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Children’s Commission Founding Director Tina Amberboy.