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2021

Impact Report

STRENGTHENING FAMILIES,
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES

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Vision

A safe and positive future for all Texas
children and families.

Mission

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.

guiding principles

Texas CASA commits to prioritizing
keeping families together whenever
safely possible, with a focus on child and
family well-being and stability.

Texas CASA is committed to supporting
programs in advocacy for children and
families of all cultures, abilities, identities
and backgrounds.

Texas CASA commits to destigmatizing
issues faced by families within the child
welfare system.

letter from leadership


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Vicki Spriggs

Texas CASA CEO

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John Knight

Texas CASA Board President

When you first walk into the Texas CASA office, you are greeted by a sign that reads “And how are the children?” This is the traditional greeting of the African Maasai tribe, meaning that the well-being and care of the children reflects the well-being of the community as a whole.

While it has been over a year since many of us have been to the office or been able to come together as a network, the sentiment remains true and at the heart of all that we do. Across Texas, there are 72 local programs with more than 11,000 volunteers working each day through a pandemic, a growing child welfare capacity crisis, and more, to support children and families involved in the child welfare system.

Child by child, family by family, the CASA network is working for the health and well-being of the community – and each of you have played a vital role. Your dedication and advocacy confirms that the CASA network is an essential part of the child welfare system. At every level of the network, the work you do impacts children and their families, and strengthens communities.

We thank you for the commitment you have shown this past year. You inspire us. You keep us focused. You keep us imaginative. You keep us going. Because of you, the CASA network goes higher and raises the level of support and advocacy we provide each and every year.

Looking ahead, we may not know what challenges this next year holds, but we do know behind every decision and action will be the question “And how are the children?” until we can say that all children and families are safe and well.


Thank you for all that you do for Texas children, families and communities.


What is
a CASA volunteer?


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are everyday people from the community appointed by a judge to look after a child’s best interests while they’re in foster care.
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CASA volunteers are assigned to one child or sibling group at a time.
They get to know the individual child or sibling group, as well as their parents and family, foster parents and other committed adults in the child’s life. They provide a consistent presence in the child’s life while working collaboratively with everyone involved on the case.

CASA volunteers support children and families involved in the child welfare system.
CASA volunteers stay by the child’s side throughout the duration of the case, supporting them and their family. CASA volunteers advocate first for reunification when safe and possible, and work to keep children connected to their family and community of origin. They focus on facilitating nurturing relationships for the child and helping to find, engage and strengthen a support network for the child and family.

CASA volunteers increase the wellbeing of the children in foster care.
CASA volunteers work to address the child’s mental, physical and educational needs while using a trauma-informed approach. They help keep children connected to their culture and cultural identity and ensure their safety while in foster care.

CASA programs are of, and for the community.
Across Texas, there are 72 local CASA programs doing the hands-on work of recruiting, training and supervising CASA volunteers to advocate for children and families involved in the child welfare system and improve their well-being. These programs provide ongoing support and coaching for volunteers and develop innovative ways to make a difference for children, families and the community.

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CASA IN THE COMMUNITY

Child Advocates of Fort Bend

Each year during Fall and Spring Break, Child Advocates of Fort Bend coordinates a variety of community service events for the children in foster care they advocate for. This year, because of the pandemic, they had to get creative. They mailed “Give Back Boxes” to youth that contained everything they need to be able to do a service project safely from their own homes, including:

  • Greeting cards, postage and envelopes for youth to write thank you cards for first responders, friendly greetings to people in senior living communities, and others;
  • Sidewalk chalk for youth to decorate and write positive messages for others in their neighborhoods;
  • Coloring pages and blue ribbons to tie around trees for Child Abuse Prevention Month awareness, and more.

This is the program’s way of ensuring that the youth they serve not only are safe and equipped to succeed, but that they leave foster care feeling empowered and inspired to make a difference of their own.

Texas CASA Services


Texas CASA is the statewide membership association for the 72 local CASA programs. We work to connect each part of the CASA network and empower the local programs to perform at their highest level by providing assistance in six core areas: Awareness, Policy, Education, Support, Accountability and Leadership.

Awareness | Texas CASA creates and oversees a statewide marketing campaign and quarterly PR campaign to increase public awareness, recruit volunteers and reinforce local marketing efforts with billboards, radio, television and social media advertisements.

Policy | Texas CASA collaborates with stakeholders, the state child welfare system and elected officials to ensure public policies focus on issues affecting children and families in child protective services.

Education | Texas CASA provides ongoing opportunities for the CASA network and the child welfare community to grow their understanding of the system and learn new ways to support children and families involved in foster care.

Support | Texas CASA provides access to information, training and technical assistance so that local CASA programs can focus their efforts on ensuring children and youth are safe and supported.

Accountability | Texas CASA is a trusted partner that identifies, disperses, administers and manages federal, state and private funds. We help to ensure the local CASA programs effectively utilize the funding to achieve their missions.

Leadership | 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.

Texas CASA Services in Action

New Texas CASA Website & Program Portal | A brand-new website with a simplified navigation, clean look, and a Program Portal featuring all resources and trainings for local CASA program staff in one location.

Message Book: Speaking in One Voice | Developed to help all programs speak in the same, strong voice. By having a consistent message across the network, we can maximize CASA awareness and better engage with potential volunteers, sponsors, community partners and more.

CASA Board Guide: Hiring & Supervising an Executive Director | Provides the Boards of Directors of CASA programs in Texas with guidance on the critically important recruitment, selection and management of the Executive Director/CEO position.

Meaningful Family Meetings: A CFE Facilitator’s Guide & Video Series | Discusses the philosophy behind family meetings and how they are structured (and in which order), and offers tips for successful facilitation, while the eight-part video series covers the “why” of family meetings to how to make them trauma- and connection-informed.

Optima Data Management Guide | Provides best practices and definitions in an effort to create and ensure uniformity, consistency and accuracy in our data management practices across the state.

Texas CASA Standards for Local CASA/GAL Programs | Texas CASA worked with Regional Representatives and select local programs across the state to incorporate the new National CASA Standards as well as legal requirements of CASA programs and Texas-specific Standards.

Volunteer Coaching & Advocacy Coaching Playbook | Walks supervisors through the coaching process starting with what coaching is, how to coach CASA volunteers with empowering questions, and setting up volunteers for growth.

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For kids in foster care, one trauma-induced outburst can lead to a lifelong entanglement with the criminal justice system — a system that costs taxpayers billions every year. Many of these children have spent their lives at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. The least we can do is give them just a little more time to be kids without worrying they’ll be taken into custody for it.

Children in foster care deserve the same love and care as your own children.

Vicki Spriggs, Houston Chronicle op-ed 
"Arresting children in foster care adds to their trauma"

FY 2021 impact numbers

September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2021

72

Local CASA Programs

219

Texas Counties Served

10,920

CASA Volunteers

28,543

Children Served by CASA

44,116

Children in DFPS Care

Now, CASA used to step in place whenever CPS was trying to move me to different placements and stuff where I didn’t want to go. They stood up for me, they gave me a voice. CASA is good people. If I have some advice for CASA volunteers, it’s to help kids advocate for themselves with CPS. So as long as you speak up and you’re there for that kid, and you see them every month, talk to them every month, you’re helping.

Jackson, age 23, formerly in foster care

FY21

Returned Home

43%

Custody to Relative

29%

Adoption (Relative)

9%

Adoption (Non-relative)

13%

Emancipation, Age Out

6%

Other

1%

Texas CASA and the child welfare system are working towards building a more family-focused network to better serve the best interest of children. The overarching goal with family engagement is to help achieve strong connectivity and permanency, preferably reunification or adoption by relatives 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 possible, CASA volunteers will work towards adoption by a non-relative.

In FY21, 81% of children with a CASA were returned home, had custody granted to a relative, or were adopted by a relative.

Mobilizing the Community in Times of Crisis

Through the ongoing pandemic, Texas CASA and the CASA network continued to provide the highest quality of advocacy for children and families involved in the system. Local programs adapted to online trainings and virtual visits, while still finding ways to engage the community. Texas CASA closely monitored the pandemic and recommendations from state and federal experts, putting the safety and health of the network first. We regularly provided resources and HR trainings so that program leadership had the information needed to make the best decisions for their staff, volunteers, and the children and families they serve.

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Ongoing Pandemic Efforts

  • Promoted the Young Adult Pandemic Aid (PanAid) to the CASA and greater child welfare network to encourage more young people to apply. PanAid was a funding opportunity designed to help young people who’ve experienced foster care afford immediate and basic needs such as rent, groceries, cell phone bills and more. Texas CASA helped spread the word through blog posts, social media content, paid social media ads, training videos and more.
  • Maintained a COVID-19 specific website to provide up-to-date information and resources for local program leadership, staff and volunteers.
  • Hosted webinars and trainings offering guidance for program leadership on workplace safety protocols.
  • Kept the CASA network up to date and informed on statewide mandates and procedures from DFPS and the Texas Supreme Court.

Winter Storm Uri & Texas Freeze Crisis

The winter storm that devastated Texas communities in February 2021 painted a humbling picture of what can happen when our access to basic necessities like food, water, heat, shelter and transportation are suddenly lost. In the days following the storm, Texas CASA and the CASA network reaffirmed our commitment to being of, and for, the community.

CASA programs and the greater child welfare community went to extraordinary measures to ensure that children and families were safe. Group home and treatment facility staff stayed at placements for days so that they did not risk driving in dangerous conditions, and to ensure children were supervised and fed. Those with four-wheel drive vehicles picked up and dropped off their coworkers from their shifts. Many CASA programs and other child-serving organizations mobilized to deliver food, water and other needed supplies to facilities, foster homes and families in need.

CASA IN THE COMMUNITY

CASA of Travis County

One program that stepped up in a big way to support the community was CASA of Travis County. The local program was able to swiftly mobilize their Austin-area volunteers and community partners to provide essential supplies to children and families suffering from cold, hunger and thirst.

According to CASA of Travis County’s February Monthly Update, between Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, and Sunday, Feb. 21, the coordinated group secured and delivered more than 20,000 cans and bottles of water to hundreds of children and families who are clients of CASA and seven other youth-serving organizations.

“We sent out an email on Thursday the 18th to all of our volunteers, first checking on them, then asking them to let us know if they had bandwidth or ability to help us meet the needs that we were starting to hear,” explained Laura Wolf, CASA of Travis County CEO. “Within a few hours, we had more offers to help from volunteers than we had needs identified from kids and families!”

One CASA volunteer drove across town in the peak of the storm to deliver portable heaters to a family. Others delivered water, food and supplies. By Sunday, Feb. 21, CASA of Travis County had set up multiple hubs around town that were run by CASA volunteers and staff, and distributed more than 100 cases of water and other needed supplies.

“We focus a lot of energy on being part of the CASA network, and I think that’s really important, but being part of a community network is what made this all happen,” Wolf said.

CASA's Critical Role:

Children in Unlicensed Facilities/Children Without Placement (CWOP)

The Texas child welfare system faced a growing capacity crisis that left children sleeping in unlicensed facilities like hotels and CPS offices at alarming rates. Before this year, the monthly total of children and youth who spent two consecutive nights or more in an unlicensed facility rarely went over 100, but in June 2021 alone, there were at least 415.

Though the challenges our system is facing are severe, we believe that they are not insurmountable and that the CASA network plays a critical role in meeting these challenges.

Texas CASA and the CASA network took great steps to address this rising issue and advance our advocacy efforts across the state. CASA volunteers advocating for a child without placement were encouraged to visit them in-person if safely possible, stay in close communication and make sure they know someone was there for them. CASA volunteers and partners also focused efforts on exploring connections for the child who could provide support, or even be a potential placement.

Additionally, our Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) team hosted several Conversation Circles where CASA staff, CPS and the Community-Based Care providers came together to brainstorm, problem solve, consult on cases and connect with others from across the state. Attendees were encouraged to come with thoughts, questions and ideas for large- and small-group discussions related specifically to the capacity crisis and engaging family. The first few events were so successful and well attended that the network asked for additional meetings. Ultimately, the team hosted 6 conversation circles: two for CASA programs, two for CPS/SSCC and two for everyone together.

"It was strangely reassuring to connect with others and know others are feeling the same way." - CASA Volunteer

"It’s so difficult for us to acknowledge the truths behind our current issues and what needs to happen moving forward, which is a better, family-friendly foster care system. So how do we have those hard conversations?" - CPS/SSCC Participant

CASA IN THE COMMUNITY

CASA of the Coastal Bend

CASA of the Coastal Bend has been helping kids without placements and their caseworkers in the midst of the capacity crisis in the best way they could: by providing them with a taste of home. CASA staff and volunteers have been delivering nutritious meals to local children in unlicensed facilities, like offices and hotels, and their caseworkers, every Monday through Thursday, consistently, since the beginning of May.

Towards the beginning of the crisis, the Corpus Christi program reached out to CPS and asked them how they could help, explained Heather Tijerina, Advocate Advisor. The kids and caseworkers had been eating a lot of pizza and other fast-and-easy food, so the CASA program rallied and set up a meal train quickly. The majority of the meals they bring for children are home cooked, Tijerina said.

“A home-cooked meal just hits different than fast food, for the kids and the staff alike,” she said. “I’ve had caseworkers break down in tears and say, ‘I can’t remember the last time I saw the inside of my own kitchen.’”

This is a way to help the kids feel a little more normal, while also giving the exhausted staff watching over them an indispensable chance to catch their breath and refuel.

Texas faces serious child welfare challenges right now, but we have the potential to meet them.

Vicki Spriggs, San Antonio Express-News op-ed “Texas foster care begs for reform, volunteers”

Systemic Change for a Positive Future:

87th Legislative Session

Beyond supporting local programs, Texas CASA advocates for effective public policy for children and families in the child protection system. Along with local CASA programs and community partners, Texas CASA engages in various efforts to enhance local and state policy to benefit children and families. During the 87th Regular Legislative Session, Texas CASA tracked over 260 child welfare bills, testified before committees 10 times, and registered a position on 65 bills. Through our nonpartisan efforts, we were able to make a positive difference in these areas:

  • Juvenile justice;
  • Preventing human trafficking and supporting survivors;
  • Parent/family rights and support;
  • Supporting youth in Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC), or long-term foster care;
  • Supporting youth who are older and transitioning out of care;
  • Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act, and more.

Much of Texas CASA’s success this session came from the ongoing grassroot support of our Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) and our partnerships with child welfare organizations. The public policy team is continuing to build upon a successful session by ensuring legislation is effectively and efficiently implemented and that local CASA programs are prepared for the changes to the system.

Highlights from the Session

  • Increased annual CASA network funding by $1 million, bringing annual funding to $15.95 million.
  • Requested the addition of a rider directing DFPS to study transportation options and needs for children and parents to improve reunification outcomes.
  • Converted the 2021 CASA Day at the Capitol into a virtual event with over 90 legislative meetings between local programs and their legislators.
  • Engaged 40 Legislative Advocacy Teams in the legislative process.
  • Maintained legislative funding for Family Finding/Collaborative Family Engagement under DFPS at $643,600 for the 2022-2023 fiscal biennium.

SB 2054 by Senator José Menéndez

This bill helps cover the costs associated with obtaining a driver’s license in Texas for youth experiencing homelessness or youth currently or formerly in foster care— costs such as driver’s education classes, driving practice time and testing fees that often become barriers for many of the youth served by the CASA network.


Why This Matters:

Research shows that in both Texas and nationally, youth previously in foster care had better outcomes if they had a driver’s license upon leaving care, but that they face significant barriers to obtaining a driver’s license in Texas. Driver’s licenses are a necessity for personal transportation, especially in rural areas of the state where public transportation options are extremely limited. In addition, driver’s licenses and IDs are integral to securing a job, school enrollment, obtaining voter registration and other legal documents, and reliably accessing safe housing and healthcare.

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SB 1059 by Senator Angela Paxton

This bill would ensure young people formerly in foster care are able to maintain their Medicaid health coverage until their 26th birthday without experiencing a disruption in coverage if they fail to renew their benefits and update their address with the state. Youth who age out of care in Texas are already eligible for Medicaid coverage until their 26th birthday. This bill directs the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to automatically renew their coverage each year after HHSC verifies their benefit information, so that youth don’t lose coverage accidentally.


Why This Matters:

Texas provides these young adults with coverage by automatically enrolling them when they leave care. However, many experience a disruption in coverage because they have difficulty renewing their benefits annually with the state. Ensuring sustained and long-term medical and mental health care coverage for these young adults will allow them to meet their individual health care needs as independent adults. Additionally, it will allow them to explore educational and workforce opportunities without feeling uncertain about how to cover the cost of potential medical expenses.

Building Networks of Support

Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE)
Collaborative Family Engagement is an innovative Family Finding partnership between CASA and Child Protective Services (CPS), first established in 2015. CFE uses a structured approach that is built around the fact that children have many blood relatives and other important connections that can be identified, located, and engaged with— providing children, parents and families with a dedicated support system that is meant to last even after CASA and CPS involvement.

In FY21, CFE expanded into 71% of the CASA network (51 programs) and is on track to onboard 9 more programs in FY22.

  • Children Served With CFE: 3,355
  • Families Engaged in CFE: 1,883
  • Local CASA Programs: 51
  • DFPS Regions: 10
  • CBC Providers: 4
  • Counties Covered: 108

Early Collaborative Family Engagement (ECFE)
Texas CASA piloted Early Collaborative Family Engagement in four CASA programs to begin advocacy in the first 14 days following a child’s removal.

ECFE was utilized by the CASA programs to work with Child Protective Investigations (CPI) to engage with families and to learn about connections that could be maintained for the child involved in the case.

From the pilot, we found that having a CASA volunteer involved from the earliest point of the case can help create many positive outcomes. Through ECFE, known and active connections were identified and engaged earlier, which helped keep children connected to their family from the earliest point of the case. This process also allowed a CASA volunteer to be introduced to parents earlier, helping the CASA volunteer to learn more about the family structure and promote a more trusting relationship where information is freely shared. This early engagement work will become a part of the CFE model in FY22.

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CASA IN THE COMMUNITY

Big Country CASA

Fourteen-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 COVID-19 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, Big Country CASA volunteer Michael Jones was appointed to advocate for him. Less than a year later, Mateo is living with family members and looking forward to starting a new school year in his hometown. He’s been reconnected with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and more—40+ family members!

During one of Michael’s visits to Mateo’s residential treatment center, they completed some Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) tools. The goal of CFE is to find and engage family members and family friends who may be able to provide support. 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 Wendy Hollabaugh helped create a 40+ person list of potential people to reach out to, and then they went through contacting the list, person by person.

Michael and Wendy’s family-finding efforts quickly proved themselves fruitful. In early July, Mateo moved out of the RTC he had been in for the past two years to live with his aunt Marie, in a familiar community. He is set to start his freshman year of high school in the school district he first attended, and he is excited to reconnect with old friends. To assist him with the transition from the residential treatment center to public school, Michael helped get Mateo signed up for football camp.

Mateo’s case is still open. But now, instead of struggling to survive, he is making new relationships, trying extracurricular activities and anticipating a new school year.

FY21

Financials

revenue

FY21

State Funding

$15,709,817

federal Funding

$24,444,304

private Funding

$2,481,886

Contributed Services

$2,079,811

Total

$44,715,818

pass thru amount*

89%


expenses

FY21

Local Program Support Services and Training

$37,883,612

Volunteer Recruitment and Awareness

$2,620,327

Grants Management and Development

$540,494

Administration

$1,415,262

Public Policy Advocacy

$341,620

Total expenses

$42,326,288

Ending Net Assets

$11,326,288

$35,776,977

of government funding that Texas CASA receives is awarded to local CASA programs for recruitment, training and volunteer support.

*Pass Thru Amount includes $2,147,827 for the Statewide Recruitment Campaign.

giving partners

$100,000 - $249,000

The Swalm foundation

$25,000 - $99,000

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Friends on Facebook

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jane quentan piper

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$10,000 - $24,999

supreme Court of Texas Children's Commission

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kimberly & scott sheffield

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Ann Tobolka

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Anonymous * Carol Eschenfelder * Elkay * Jack & Joyce Sampson Family Foundation * Jenny Haynes * Pat & Marina Breeland * Patricia & Cody Bates * Patsy & Michael Hochman Charitable Foundation * Rhonda Thompson * Texas Bar Foundation * TXB Stores * University of Texas at San Antonio

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