Texas CASA envisions a safe and positive future for all Texas children and families.
To support local CASA volunteer advocacy programs and to advocate for effective public policy for children and families in the child protection system.
The CASA way
We have an uncompromising belief that we will achieve what others think is impossible, and each of us is an essential part of the solution.
Table of Contents
Letter from Our Leadership
What is a CASA?
How our community of volunteers creates positive change.
What does a CASA do?
A peek inside the process.
FY 2020 Impact Numbers
A look at this year's milestones.
Texas CASA Services
Supporting local programs with tools and resources.
Meeting challenges: The casa network's response to covid-19
Adapting and responding to support volunteers,
staff and families.
Improving the child protection system through legislation and other positive public policy efforts.
AT THE FOREFRONT OF CHANGE: TEXAS CASA INITIATIVES
Leading the way to successfully advocate for children and their families.
Leading the Future
Continued commitment to advocating first and foremost for keeping families together whenever safe and possible.
Our Giving Partners
The CASA Network in Texas
See all 72 local programs and meet the Texas CASA team.
3 Ways to Get Involved
Welcome letter from leadership
2020 has been a challenging year for all of us and has pushed the CASA network to grow and adapt in ways we never imagined. Through it all, the CASA spirit has never been stronger. CASA staff, board members, volunteers, partners and supporters have all stepped up to ensure that the quality of advocacy for children and families never wavered.
Across the state, the 72 local CASA programs have gone virtual for their information sessions, volunteer trainings, swearing-in ceremonies and other events – staying committed to safe practices for volunteers, children and families. Despite the challenges and setbacks, we are taking the lessons learned and moving forward stronger and with new tools to support children and families in the child welfare system.
Even before the pandemic, the child welfare system and the CASA network were making shifts in advocacy and support for children and families. Texas CASA collaborated with our stakeholders and community partners through focus groups to find areas where CASA advocacy is excelling and where we have room to improve. We have also improved our messaging statewide to reflect that the CASA network is made of welcoming and inclusive organizations.
The strength and leadership shown throughout the network this year demonstrates that we can face any challenge together – and not only face, them but lead the way within the child welfare community. Because of this, the future of CASA in Texas is brighter than ever. We could not do this work without each and every one of you. Your courage and dedication continues to push us closer to ensuring our vision of a safe and positive future for all Texas children and families.
We are looking forward to a new year of endless possibilities. Thank you for all that you’ve done and will continue to do for Texas children and families.
Texas CASA CEO
Texas CASA board president
WHAT IS A COURT
APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE?
When a family is in crisis and becomes involved in the child welfare system, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer may be appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of the child. This highly trained volunteer is someone from the child’s community. Their responsibility is to get to know the child, their parents, their family and everyone else involved in the case. A CASA volunteer will advocate for the child’s safety, permanency and well-being while in foster care.
At the local level, the 72 CASA programs in Texas do the hands-on work of recruiting, training and supervising these dedicated volunteers. At the state level, Texas CASA partners with the programs to provide training, coaching and other resources.
As the statewide membership organization, we work to connect each part of the CASA community and empower the local programs to perform at their highest level. Texas CASA also works to improve the child protection system through legislation and positive public policy changes.
A CASA volunteer will
advocate for the child’s
and well-being while in
WHAT does a CASA do?
CASA volunteers provide a consistent presence in a child’s life while working collaboratively with everyone involved on the case. CASA volunteers stay by the child’s side during their time in foster care, advocating for the child’s voice to be heard and for the needs of the child and family.
This is a fictional story based on real-life situations that many children in the Texas foster care system face. This does not reflect the process and ending of all cases. This is just one example of the difference a CASA volunteer can make in a child’s life.
David is removed from home and placed in a foster home.
A CASA volunteer, Nate, is appointed by the judge.
Nate meets with David and provides a consistent caring presence while working with all parties involved on the case.
Nate attends a family meeting along with David’s parents, paternal grandparents, foster parents and David’s caseworker.
Together, they identify David’s physical, emotional and educational needs and resources to help him and his parents heal.
Nate meets with David every month and shares information with the judge and everyone on the case.
At the next family meeting, David’s team focuses on building and strengthening a network of support around David and his parents.
Nate continues to advocate for David and stay by his side throughout the case, advocating for David to be reunited with his parents.
No matter the outcome, Nate will keep in contact with the support network until the case closes so that everyone continues to put David’s best interests first.
FY 2020: SEPTEMBER 1, 2O19 - AUGUST 31, 2O2O
Local CASA Programs
Texas Counties Served
Children Served by CASA
Children in DFPS Care FY19
CASE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN SERVED BY CASA IN FY2O
Research shows that reunification with their parents, when safe and possible, is the best outcome for children. CASA volunteers stay by a child’s side throughout the case, advocating first for reunification when safe and possible. If reunification is not safe or possible, CASA volunteers will advocate for the child to be adopted by or live with other relatives or family friends. If that is also not an option, CASA volunteers will work towards adoption by a non-relative.
No matter the outcome, CASA volunteers will keep in contact with the child’s support network until the case closes so that everyone continues to put the child’s best interests first.
Custody to Relative
Custody to Non-relative
Emancipation, Age Out or 18th Birthday
Texas casa Services
Texas CASA creates and oversees a statewide marketing campaign to increase public awareness. This campaign helps to recruit volunteers and reinforce local marketing efforts with billboards, radio, television and social media efforts.
Texas CASA collaborates with stakeholders, the state child welfare system and elected officials to ensure public policies address the needs and concerns of children and families within the child protection system.
Texas CASA acts as a bridge between the local CASA programs and the child welfare system. We provide continual education and training so that volunteers will have a better understanding of the system and the needs of children and families.
Texas CASA provides access to information, training and other resources for local programs. This helps local programs be better able to focus on helping the children and families within the child protection system.
Texas CASA acts as a trusted partner in the management and dispersal of federal, state and private funds. We help the local CASA programs effectively identify and utilize funding to achieve their mission.
Texas CASA provides innovative trainings, mentorship and resources that build strong local CASA program board members, executive directors and staff so that they may better serve children and families.
THE CASA NETWORK’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
- Created a dedicated website to provide up-to-date information and resources for local program leadership, staff and volunteers.
- Allocated $100,000 in funding to local CASA programs to purchase technology equipment and software so that all programs had the resources to seamlessly move to working remotely.
- Formed a COVID-19 Response Workgroup of local CASA programs to review protocols and guidance on reopening local program offices and returning to in-person visits. These guidelines created by the workgroup were distributed network wide.
- Contracted with Zoom to provide local CASA programs a temporary 3-month Zoom Pro License and hosted a training on how to make the most of Zoom features.
- Refocused our webinars and trainings around how programs and volunteers can adapt their advocacy through COVID-19:
- Strategies for Fund Development During COVID-19
- Supporting Connections & Community During COVID-19 featuring Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., renowned bestselling
author, leading trauma expert and founder of
The Neurosequential Model Network; and Kevin Campbell, international permanency expert and model author of Family Finding
- Effective CASA Advocacy in a Virtual Environment featuring the Honorable Rob Hofmann, Judge of the 452nd District Court and Jurist in Residence for the Supreme Court Children’s Commission
The CASA community is committed to keeping staff, volunteers and families safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. CASA programs across the state went virtual for their information sessions, volunteer training, swearing-in ceremonies and other events. Using videoconferencing to connect with children, participate in the legal process and keep in contact with families, CASA volunteers were able to ensure children’s safety and well-being. In cases where in-person contact is necessary, CASA programs work with volunteers to put essential safety measures in place.
All across Texas, CASA volunteers found safe and innovative ways to make a difference for the children and families they serve – take Veronica, a CASA volunteer in Corpus Christi. Veronica advocates for Celine and her older sister Rebecca. Like all of us, the sisters and their advocate have had to practice physical distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19. That didn’t stop Veronica from making sure Celine didn’t miss out on celebrating her birthday.
“I asked her what type of cake she would like, and she told me that she didn’t like any other cake except ice cream cake,” Veronica said. “I really thought there was no way I was going to be able to get an ice cream cake over there!”
Veronica called stores all over town. Finally, after some advice from her sister, she found a cake that was just right. She checked in with Celine’s foster parents, booked a delivery, and soon enough a “Happy Birthday” ice cream cake was on its way to surprise Celine at her foster home!
But the birthday festivities didn’t end there. The next day, Veronica asked the sisters if they’d eaten dinner yet. Celine said that they hadn’t and soon enough, Veronica had an order sent out, and pizza was on its way!
With a generous donation from Foster Angels of South Texas, Veronica was able to organize one last surprise. Both Celine and Rebecca received a brand-new pair of Vans tennis shoes in the color and style of their choice. Celine had been wishing for a new pair for her birthday, and thanks to Foster Angels, Veronica was able to turn that wish into a reality.
LEGISLATIVE & POLICY EFFORTS
Texas CASA is a leader in advocating for sound public policies in Texas on issues affecting the child welfare system, the well-being of children and youth in state custody and other policy areas related to our mission. Along with local CASA programs and their volunteers, Texas CASA engages in various efforts to improve and change local and state policy to benefit children and families in the child protection system. Texas CASA staff members conduct research, collaborate with other advocacy and stakeholder groups, lead special task forces and engage in other processes to develop and impact policy.
Texas CASA staff members conduct research, collaborate with other advocacy and stakeholder groups, lead special task forces and engage in other processes to develop and impact policy.
At the forefront of change
As the child welfare system evolves, Texas CASA and the CASA network strive to remain at the forefront of these changes. We are leading the system evolution by finding new ways to advocate for children and families in the child welfare system. We’re doing this through new initiatives and developing partnerships across the state.
COLLABORATIVE FAMILY ENGAGEMENT (CFE)
Texas CASA and the Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) have continued to roll out the Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) approach across Texas thanks to funding from the Texas Legislature. CFE is a team-based approach to bring family members and other committed adults into the planning and decision making process. The CFE approach develops a lifelong network of support for the young person and their parent(s). CASA volunteers, caseworkers, and other community stakeholders collaborate to support the family through the process. CFE teams use tools and techniques focused on connection and an understanding of trauma.
In FY 2020, CFE was in 41 CASA programs, 90 counties and 10 DFPS regions – more than 50% of the statewide network. With 10 new sites added in FY 2021, we are on track to take CFE statewide by FY 2023.
Children served by cfe
families engaged in cfe
local casa programs
people trained in cfe
LEADERSHIP FOR EQUITY & DIVERSITY (LEAD) INITIATIVE
The Leadership for Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Initiative is Texas CASA’s commitment to proactive change in both our own organization and in the statewide CASA network. We recognize that significant disparities exist in all aspects of society, including the child welfare system. The LEAD Initiative focuses on understanding and addressing four key areas: inequality and disparities along the lines of race, gender and sexual orientation, disability and poverty.
Texas CASA is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization, and we are actively trying to uphold that commitment in a variety of ways. Starting in 2019, our staff undertook a year-long learning process about equity, privilege and oppression within society and systems. We have continued to build upon this learning and have implemented practices into our day to day operations including the creation of a new hiring process to help ensure equal opportunities for all.
On the network level, we have convened representatives of the 72 local CASA programs to discuss how these issues appear in the child welfare system and CASA’s work. Their expertise set the framework for new LEAD training and materials coming next year.
“We join in solidarity with the people most harmed by injustice, and pledge to listen to their voices and leadership as we strive to become better advocates for all children and families. We will seek better ways to serve communities of color, to ensure that resources are equitably available and that the violence they are targeted by comes to an end.” – Texas CASA’s Renewed Commitment to Racial Justice, June 2, 2020.
CLERGY, CASA & COMMUNITY
Our Clergy, CASA and Community initiative convened a leadership team comprised of faith community leaders, DFPS and CASA program staff from around the state. Over the last two years, the Clergy and CASA Advisory Council has provided input and recommendations for guidebooks, promotional materials and training resources to inspire faith communities with the CASA mission and support them in becoming involved with local CASA programs. We have created a Faith-Based Recruitment Toolkit for Programs and a Guide to Clergy, CASA and Community for Faith Leaders. These materials will be tested by three local programs along with ongoing support and coaching from Texas CASA as part of a year-long pilot program developed by the Clergy and CASA Advisory Council.
Speaking in one voice
Texas CASA developed the CASA Messaging Book to help establish a common CASA language that the network can use moving forward. Changes within our messaging reflect the shift in our communications to be more inclusive and family-focused. As the child welfare system evolves, language around supporting families will become more and more important. We want to ensure we and the CASA network are speaking in a way that fosters collaboration and engagement from families and partners within the child welfare system.
leading the future
To strengthen partnerships and enhance CASA volunteer advocacy, Texas CASA initiated focus groups and disseminated surveys to several partner groups for input and advice on improving advocacy for children and families.
Among the groups we engaged with, there was a broad recognition that CASA involvement and advocacy benefits children and families. In particular, they noted the importance of the stability and continuity of CASA involvement over the course of cases. There was also broad recognition that CASA volunteers form good relationships with the children they serve, and that they have the ability to identify and arrange community resources to better support children and families.
The feedback also generated useful suggestions for all practice areas within Texas CASA and local CASA programs, especially training, quality assurance, public policy and recruitment.
Judges are grateful for CASA programs’ focus on collaboration, which can raise the bar for all parties involved in the case and often bring more out-of-the-box resources to a case.
“CASAs give the children they serve hope.”
“Youth with CASAs are more engaged in the court proceedings.”
“When I had a CASA they made me feel really safe and comfortable and CASA
helped me when I needed to say something and ask something during court.”
“CASAs are involved in the child’s life and pay attention to the child’s needs.”
“CASAs are truly dedicated to the safety and well-being of children.”
“They [CASAs] make strong, ongoing connections with children. They provide consistency and commitment to the children they serve and have an open, respectful connection.”
“CASAs have the time to spend with the children they see, driving to visit them, attending parental visitations, meeting with teachers and therapists. Caseworkers and attorneys rarely have this time and that involvement is very important to support reunification and the well-being of the child.”
Local Program Support Services and Training
Grants Management and Development
Volunteer Recruitment and Awareness
Public Policy Advocacy
Ending Net Assets
of government funding that Texas CASA receives is awarded to local CASA programs for recruitment, training and volunteer support.
our giving partners
The CASA network
3 Ways to get involved
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