The Community Margaret Is Building

“Margaret is going above and beyond every single day to impact the quality of training that CASA volunteers deserve. She is listening to the trainers and working hard to give them what they need to succeed.” – Dennise Jackson, Texas CASA Strategic Network Support Director

Learning and Development Manager for Pre-Service Training, Margaret Halpin, first joined the CASA network in 2016 as the Training Coordinator, and, later, Volunteer Supervisor with CASA of Travis County. Margaret quickly fell in love with the CASA mission, and in 2018, when the role of Curriculum Designer and Trainer at Texas CASA opened up, she jumped at the opportunity to expand her service area and support trainers across the state! Before joining the CASA network, Margaret worked in program management at the National Domestic Violence Hotline where she trained, supervised and supported frontline advocacy staff and developed virtual training opportunities for community partners across the country. During her service at the DV hotline, Margaret learned many lessons about human resilience and the value of human connection. “Along with supporting survivors – many of them parents seeking safety for themselves and their children – I also worked with people who were behaving in harmful and abusive ways in their relationships. Those hard conversations drove home to me that these are human beings just like you and me, and that people are capable of change when they have the support they need.” There is a Zen Buddhist tradition that speaks of a “warm hand to warm hand across the void” — a saying that resonates deeply with Margaret as a way of describing the importance of being with one another in hard or harrowing times, and affirming the power of human connection and community when we need it most. 

Margaret has accomplished many impactful and transformative feats while working at Texas CASA. One project she spearheaded in 2020 was reshaping the preservice curriculum into a blended option of online and in-person trainings. The new blended format was designed to provide a more accessible option for programs that aren’t able to facilitate each of the required eight sessions of pre-service training in person. Margaret led the development of e-courses that would allow the learners to complete some of their courses online, while still maintaining the in-person aspect of training as well. Since implementing this new blended format, more than 2,000 volunteers and CASA staff have completed the online preservice training!

Another impressive project of Margaret’s is the wildly successful CASA on the Go Podcast! Margaret launched the continuing education podcast in 2019 as a way to provide CASA volunteers with engaging and relevant training designed to help strengthen advocacy for children and families. Each short, dynamic episode features informative discussions with subject matter experts exploring topics connected to child welfare and best practices for CASA advocacy. Previously recorded episodes include topics such as Fostering Collaboration with Naomi Sawyer: the Power of Partnering with Foster Caregivers, The Urgency of Placing Kids with Relatives featuring the Honorable Leonard Edwards, and many more. Margaret’s thoughtful planning and informative discussions have been a true success. In August 2023 the podcast hit over 25,000 downloads – an admirable affirmation of Margaret’s dedication and hard work!

The passion for creating and facilitating participant-centered learning experiences that Margaret brings to the Texas CASA team is invaluable. Here is what a few of the trainers from local CASA programs had to say about her:  

  • “Margaret Halpin has always answered my multitude of questions quickly and gave me the direction I needed. As a new CASA trainer, she helped me get through the first year with her encouragement and patience. I feel fortunate to have her as a friend and mentor! She’s the best!” – Barbara Henderson, Volunteer Specialist – Lone Star CASA
  • “I’ve been privileged to have Margaret as the trainer of trainers in several conferences for a few years and she is EXCELLENT! Not only does she plan, present, and follow through with training, she also is quick to answer any questions we may have via email, text, or phone. Her expertise in all areas of CASA information is unmatched with anyone else I have come in contact with. Not only was she instrumental in the original Texas training module, but she has also asked and responded to needed changes and made the training easy to use via the internet and in person. Thanks to her we must have the best CASAs in the U.S.!” – Sandra Tilton, Training Coordinator – CASA of Liberty/Chambers Counties

Margaret feels incredibly fortunate to work alongside the phenomenal trainers in the CASA network. “I have the wonderful privilege of supporting and learning from the trainers in our network, who I truly believe are leaders in child welfare practice around the state. With every Art of Facilitation training I do, I’m moved to witness the powerful storytelling and profound compassion our trainers bring to the work of preparing new CASA advocates to walk alongside children, parents, and families,” she said. Growing up, Margaret was taught the concept that “we get to be a part of building the kind of community we believe in.” By witnessing the sincere devotion and compassion she has for the CASA mission, I think we can agree that we ALL want to be a part of the community Margaret is building.