The life-changing journey that is CASA

Jul 30 2015

We celebrated the swearing-in of 42 CASA volunteers last week. The Honorable Darlene Byrne led the ceremony and we wanted to share some of her encouraging words to the CASA volunteers in attendance that night:

The journey you are about to go on will in fact be life changing. Certainly for the child that you represent, and I hope for you as well. I think it will be life changing in an awesome way.

We are often so privileged. We have so much. We have a running car. We have a mom and dad who love us and a grandma and grandpa too. We have a community, a network of support around us. We don’t have a mom or dad that’s suffering from unmet mental health needs or high on drugs because they are masking their mental health problems. Or relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing and public transportation to get to and from what they do every day. We are very privileged. And I think as a community with a lot, we have great responsibility to give back to those in our community who don’t have what we just take for granted every day.

What I love about this town, the reason why it’s the only town in the state of Texas to live, it’s because of people like you that give of the only thing I can never replicate for you. And that is your valuable time. I know you’ve got lots on your plate, there’s no doubt about it. I know you do, and I cannot give you back any minute that you give any of these children. It’s gone forever. But I hope that it enriches you in ways that you can’t even imagine as you sit in this room.

I do want to let you know that what you write down in court is critically important. I want you to know that the very first thing I do when I am getting ready for court, if I’ve got the CASA report already, it’s the first one I read. I get rich information from CASA about the wellbeing of this child, about the child’s educational successes or failures, about the child’s mental health, their therapeutic needs and the like.

So I want to encourage you to write those words down. It helps. It helps me a lot. I may not agree with you on your recommendations. Please do not take that personally. There are legal issues I have to deal with. There are timelines I have to deal with. There’s the wellbeing of the child I have to deal with. There are mandated requirements I have to deal with under federal and state law. But you don’t worry about that. You just speak your mind about what the child needs right now and, if this child were yours, what would you want this child to have.

So I want to thank you and I want to celebrate with you tonight in swearing you in as CASA volunteers and I so look forward to working with all of you. So, let’s get this party started!

Judge Byrne was particularly excited to see men make up a quarter of the volunteers being sworn-in that evening and shared some of her thoughts on why male volunteers are so needed on some of her cases:

Men, we need you. I cannot tell you how much we need you. Many of our young boys have either never met their fathers, or their father has been in jail their entire life, or their father has not contributed a dime to feed them, to clothe them, to send them to school. They desperately need men in their lives that they can look at as a possible role model. So please replicate yourselves. We need you.

See all the photos from our July 21 Swearing-In Ceremony on Facebook or Flickr