By Sara Blake
"The biggest thing that a CASA volunteer brings is their time," says volunteer Angela Duley. "Taking the time to advocate, to ask for what's needed, to call attention to that child."
Angela has been a CASA volunteer for one year.
Angela has lived all around the world, but has always seemed to find her way back to Texas. She remembers living overseas as a young child with her family before they settled down in Houston. She went to college at Texas A&M. "I studied marine biology because I always loved science and math, and I was trying to choose between becoming a vet and marine biology," Angela shares. "Eventually, marine biology turned into just biology!" Biology led Angela into a career of research, manufacturing, and quality assessment.
After getting married six years ago, Angela's husband's company transferred them to France. Soon after, they had a little girl, now three years old. Back in Texas, Angela and her family have opened their own brewery, Central District Brewing, in downtown Austin. Angela says that right now, the new business and her daughter are all consuming. "There's only a short amount of time that she will be little, so she is really my hobby."
"I was lamenting to some friends about wanting to do something, but I didn't know what I could do without being an attorney or police officer"
When Angela's daughter started attending school last fall, Angela started her training as a CASA volunteer. "I had watched a lot of documentaries about the criminal justice system, and was seeing glimpses of how broken and sad it could be. I was lamenting to some friends about wanting to do something, but I didn't know what I could do without being an attorney or police officer," says Angela. "Turns out, one of my friend's mothers is a CASA volunteer, and she suggested I look into it."
Looking back on the work of her first case, Angela recognizes instances where she had to change her perspective in order to make a recommendation in the best interest of the child she worked with. "You reevaluate your decisions sometimes. The information you had at the time informs your decision, but in hindsight you sometimes wonder what would have happened if you knew more," she says. “I don't think that could ever be easy, but you do gain more confidence in your own decision making."
Angela credits CASA's training program with opening her eyes to the biases that we carry. "For example, in my family, college wasn't a choice. It wasn't a thought not to go. But that's not the path for everyone and you shouldn't force that on someone else."
"I want to do everything I can to shape the beginning of her life in a loving way, because I can see the impact when a child's first years are not loving and safe."
Having her own child has brought even more weight to Angela's work with CASA. "It makes me really conscious of the experiences my daughter has. I want to do everything I can to shape the beginning of her life in a loving way, because I can see the impact when a child's first years are not loving and safe."
Angela recalls a recent conversation with a teacher of the child on her case, who fostered to adopt 3 children herself. "She told me that all of her kids were supposed to have CASA, but there weren't enough volunteers at the time. She said how amazing it would have been to have that extra help and an advocate for kids who really needed someone."
"For me, it was important to volunteer and to see what the system is like; what is really going on for these kids."
Angela and her husband hope to adopt a child of their own someday, and she sees her work with CASA as a chance to understand more about the child welfare system first. "There's power in seeing something firsthand versus just being told about it. For me, it was important to volunteer and to see what the system is like; what is really going on for these kids."
Featured Volunteer Story 2019 Volunteer Profiles November