By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO

Who are your people?

All of us have people—family, friends, mentors, teachers, coaches… people old and young, alive and passed—who’ve played important roles in our lives, loved us, and helped support and shape us into who we are today.

I’ll tell you about some of my people. First, my mother. She had six daughters, because, as she put it, she only wanted daughters to show us all we could do as women—since she grew up hearing all about what she couldn’t do as a female. Then of course, there was my father, who sometimes didn’t know what to do in a house full of females, but he did know he wanted his daughters to be independent, good citizens and able to make good choices. Finally, my beautiful, talented, smart and funny sisters. I was the middle child, always looking at my older and younger sisters and marveling at all they were, and what they were doing. These were the people I was blessed with by birth. There are a few others I’ve met along the way who I’ve added to my family. Even if we don’t speak for months or years, when we connect, we pick up like it was yesterday.

Where would we be without our people? It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Now think about the children and youth we serve in the foster care system. These children are removed from their homes, families and communities due to no fault of their own, and often sent to live with strangers. Sometimes they’re separated from their siblings. Their foster care placements and schools can change frequently, causing a loss of relationships with their friends, teachers, coaches and mentors. The foster care system has a hard time keeping children connected with their people.

But here’s the good news: CASA volunteers can help. Not only can they be a consistent presence for these children when they need it most, but they can ensure their voice is heard. They can advocate for them to stay safely connected with those who are important to them.

“When I think of ‘home,’ I don’t really know what home is. I guess, wherever my apartment is….I find that people are the number one thing. It’s about people.” – Leon

In this edition, we share a new voice: Leon’s Story. Leon entered foster care at age 3 and was adopted, but the adoptive family broke down in his teen years and he was returned to the child welfare system. He aged out of the system at 18, while learning how to strive, forgive others and protect himself. Today, he cares for others daily as a mental health professional working two full-time jobs in crisis counseling—and owns his own energy drink business. Leon tells his foster care story in detail in this edition of The CASA Voice—a moving testimony crafted through interviews and a collaborative editing process. His lived experience has much insight to offer. Leon touches on how his people—both blood relatives and found family—supported him through his time in foster care and taught him what matters in life. He also keeps in contact with his CASA volunteer! Read Leon’s story.

In this edition, we’re also featuring a wonderful success story out of Child Advocates of Fort Bend. Watch the video to see how Jaycob, a medically fragile boy in foster care, went from feeling alone to being connected, loved and surrounded with his people—the result of 12 years of dedicated advocacy by his Collaborative Family Engagement team.

Humans are relational beings. We’re at our best when we are with people we love, and who love us. I hope these stories reinvigorate and inspire you to keep working hard to create a world of connection and support for the children and families we serve, and everyone you care for.