Lisa Briggs, Volunteer Management Specialist, has been with us since 2017. Prior to coming to Texas CASA, she worked as a Volunteer Supervisor and Program Director at CASA of Southeast Texas from 2010-2016. She is a dedicated advocate whose passion for philanthropy inspires her to continue to improve how Texas CASA supports local programs, staff, volunteers and children.
Tell us about your background.
I’m fortunate to have two loving parents and two older siblings who are wonderful and have shaped my life. I know how lucky I am to have that.
My cousin and one of my best friends were adopted as infants, and that was never kept a secret. When I was a child, my friends and I would play adoption with our dolls and stuffed animals. I remember basically playing what I know now as an adoption worker, and saying “Here’s your child, sign here.”
My aunt, my friend’s mom and my mom never spoke ill of the birth parents. They were always very grateful that they were given the gift of adoption. I think about that now and appreciate the compassion and empathy they showed the birth parents. I tried to keep that in the forefront of my mind when I worked with children and families and in my current role.
What brought you to Texas CASA?
I started at CASA of Southeast Texas in 2010 as a Case Supervisor. I worked directly with advocates, children and families. In 2014, I became the Court Program Director. After I left in 2016, Texas CASA contacted me to do contract work, which I was extremely grateful for. I always admired Texas CASA’s work and the staff. Everyone was just so pleasant and helpful. I thought, Is it really that way on the inside?, and turns out it is! I accepted a position on the Program Operations team and moved to Austin. I found I enjoy the indirect work as much as I did the ground-level work. Here I still feel like I’m supporting kids, advocates and families, and now I get to support 72 local programs!
I’m grateful for the collaboration and to work with such innovative, creative and caring coworkers. I think we really inspire each other’s work, which is a place you want to come to every day.
Tell us about your role here.
Right now I’m leading the Volunteer Coaching and Advocacy (VCA) program. It’s a new initiative Texas CASA started last year. The focus is to provide training, resources and support to Volunteer Coordinators and other program staff who work directly with advocates. I have a special place in my heart for case supervisors because I was one. It’s such a difficult job and can be exhausting and emotional, but also the most rewarding position.
VCA is giving Volunteer Coordinators specific training and resources for their position, which was a missing piece. There are over 380 supervisors in the network, and I’m so excited we get to create something that is just for them.
VCA’s trainings, onsite visits and resources focus on developing coaching skills and practicing an approach with volunteers that empowers them to own their case. Using the coaching model promotes a partnership between the Coordinator and the volunteer rather than a solely supervisor relationship, which is more effective and leads to volunteer and staff retention.
The advocacy piece of VCA, coming in FY 2020, is very exciting! We want to go beyond minimum standards and provide the best advocacy for our kids which builds upon the coaching model we focused on this year. We all share the common goal of having best outcomes for our children, and now we want to take a deep dive into how to coach advocates to provide the highest quality advocacy.
What does the future of your work look like?
For FY 2020, we will be offering four, two-day regional trainings. We are currently deciding what that’s going to look like and how to best present to our network. We’re utilizing all the feedback from the surveys we received this year to improve our trainings and incorporate the network’s requests. We received positive comments and really helpful feedback from that training that will continue to guide this work.
Our goal is to continue to support the Volunteer Coordinators through the VCA program, which will also include onsite support to programs. I feel it’s our responsibility to respond to the network’s requests for specific trainings and resources. It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to meet their needs and fulfill their requests.
How has your past experience at a local CASA program shaped your work here?
I have a perspective of what it’s like to work in a local program which influences and guides the resources I help create and input I give to my team and organization. I’m able to draw from past experiences which offers a unique opportunity to identify strengths and areas for growth.
Since I’ve been at Texas CASA, I’ve learned so much from this incredible network! I’m excited that I get to give back to the programs in the form of resources, trainings and individual customer service, which turns out to be my favorite part of my job.
What impact does VCA have on the children we serve?
Our goal is for the Volunteer Coordinators to utilize the coaching skills and strategies with their volunteers, which will have a positive effect on how the volunteers advocate for their children. Volunteer retention is paramount in providing quality advocacy that our children need and deserve. I’m confident this specific training and individualized support now offered to the Volunteer Coordinators will have a positive impact on the children we serve.
What does CASA mean to you?
That question brings up a lot of thoughts and emotions for me. One is I think about the kids who we advocate for and how one day they will all be adults. They will have questions for the adults who made decisions and recommendations that directly affected their lives when they were in care. I want to believe their CASA will be able to say they saw them as a whole child and exhaustively advocated for their best interest.
I think about the volunteers in their communities who come from all professions and life experiences who are giving their time and committing to advocate for a child who is currently in a traumatic situation. These community members are signing on to advocate for this child, but first they have to learn what true advocacy means and the weight of their recommendations. There’s no other volunteer experience like CASA. It’s pretty incredible what our advocates are capable of, and even more so, what our CASA kids are capable of.