Texas CASA Spotlight – Catherine Dooley

Catherine Dooley, LMSW, is a Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) Coach for Texas CASA, assisting in the delivery and implementation of CFE across the state. Prior to working with Texas CASA, Catherine contracted with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas developing and evaluating trainings for volunteers and family advocates. Catherine also served as a Victim Advocate at The Women’s Center of Tarrant County supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. In addition, Catherine is a Licensed Master Social Worker and Trust-Based Relational Intervention Practitioner.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in the CASA cause.

I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and raised in Portland, Texas, living with my parents and older brother. After high school I went to Texas Christian University where I graduated with a degree in social work and a minor in business. While in college, I volunteered for The Women’s Shelter of South Texas and interned with The Women’s Center of Tarrant County within the rape crisis and victim services department. I then attended The University of Texas at Austin to obtain my masters of science in social work with a community and administrative leadership concentration. I then contracted with Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas to create and present a comprehensive volunteer coordinator’s training.

All of these experiences instilled a passion for working with survivors of domestic violence and child abuse, which led me to CASA!

How long have you been with Texas CASA?

Two years as of Oct. 26!

Tell us about your role as a CFE Coach.

As a Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) Coach, I have the privilege of working with CASA of the Coastal Bend, CASA of Hidalgo County, CASA of Williamson County, CASA of Central Texas, CASA of South Texas and Bluebonnet CASA, alongside their respective CPS partners, to implement Texas’ Family Finding approach. I travel to the local CASA programs and CPS offices, as well as work remotely from home.

CFE is all about finding and engaging family members and other important adults, and strengthening connections to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the CPS system. My work in the programs is really dependent on the needs of that individual CASA program and CPS partner. It often looks like planning meetings with both CASA and CPS leadership, co-facilitation of team and family meetings, coaching staff and volunteers on the CFE philosophy and tools, and training. When I work remotely from home, my day often involves email communication, video conferencing, strategizing and planning for future meetings, and developing resources for the CASA network and CPS partners.

I also oversee the technology that we use with CFE, which includes our searching website subscriptions, video teleconferencing account and Seneca search use. I love that every single day is different, and that comes with new and exciting opportunities and challenges!

What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is all of the amazing people that I have the opportunity to work with across the state of Texas! It is incredibly evident that all of the CASA programs and CPS partners are not only passionate about the work that they do, but incredibly talented and skilled as well. To be a part of the CASA community working to advocate for the best interest of children in the child welfare system is incredibly rewarding because I see firsthand the impactful work being done with children and families.

Do you have a story of CFE in action you’d like to share?

One of the CFE cases I’ve been coaching on involved a teenage girl who is passionate about track. She hopes to get a track scholarship and continue running in college. She was placed in a foster home outside of her school district, however, and was very concerned about not returning to her school after the summer.

The CFE team reached out to the track coach who offered to go pick up this teenager from her foster home every day and bring her to and from school so that she could stay on the team. Because of the work that the CFE team did with the family through the family meetings, the girl was able to be placed with a relative back in her school district before the school year started!

Why do you believe CFE is so important?

Relationships are at the core of who we are as human beings and also at the core of CFE. As relational beings, we need positive relationships to not only survive but thrive.

CFE helps establish a true partnership between CASA and CPS to work towards the best interest of the child, which involves exploring and engaging with family and natural connections. This partnership models the type of relationships that both CASA and CPS advocate for children to have with their family and natural connections. Positive relationships between children and their family, and also between family members, creates a lifetime network of support for children in foster care. This lifetime network of support creates positive outcomes and a better future for children in foster care.

Check out our other Texas CASA staff spotlights!