By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO
14-year-old Mateo spent 10 years in foster care and lived in at least 10 different placements before he was appointed a CASA volunteer. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, he was living in a residential treatment center, secluded from his family, friends, and everyone else he had known and loved as a child.
In September 2020, CASA volunteer Michael was appointed to advocate for Mateo. During one of Michael’s visits to Mateo’s residential treatment center, they utilized some Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) tools. Using these tools, Mateo was able to identify names of people he remembered from 10+ years ago who he wanted to reconnect with. Michael’s CASA supervisor helped create a 40+-person list of potential people to reach out to, and then they went through contacting the list, person by person.
Fast forward and Mateo is now living with family members, in a familiar community, and back at school in his hometown. He has been reconnected with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and more—40+ family members!
More and more success stories like these are happening every day, thanks to the implementation of Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE). CFE is Texas’ team-based approach between local CASA programs and Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers, Community-Based Care contractors, and other child welfare professionals to engage and work with family members and fictive kin. The goal is to find family members and family friends who can commit to providing support for a child, and help keep them safe and connected—creating a “lifetime network” that lasts and benefits them far beyond CASA and CPS involvement.
We are so excited to announce that in Fiscal Year 2023, Texas CASA is completing the statewide rollout of CFE so that the entire CASA network is involved in family engagement and connection-informed advocacy!
Alongside this amazing milestone, we’re also proud to release our new CFE Tools App. This app provides an easy, paperless alternative for CASA volunteers, caseworkers and others to complete CFE tools with children and families from the comfort of their mobile phone. If you’re doing CFE work with a child in foster care, we encourage you to download it and explore the tools offered in the app.
Thank you for your dedication to Texas children and families in the foster care system. Together, we are creating brighter, more connected futures for children and families all across Texas!