By Shannon Contreras
Ian Spechler’s passion for CASA’s mission started long before he decided to become a volunteer advocate. Originally from Boston, Ian’s family moved to the Dallas area when he was in high school. He went on to attend college and law school at UT. After graduating, Ian worked for 10 years as an attorney at Disability Rights Texas representing children with disabilities in the foster care system across the state of Texas. It was through that work that he got to learn about CASA’s powerful advocacy.
"I got to work with CASAs from all over Texas in more than 70 counties, and one thing that always remained true was the huge impact they had on the lives of the kids they served."
“I got to work with CASAs from all over Texas in more than 70 counties, and one thing that always remained true was the huge impact they had on the lives of the kids they served,” he tells us.
When Ian decided to take the next step in his career and become an Administrative Law Judge, he knew he still wanted to find a way to still work directly with kids in the child welfare system, so he decided to become a CASA himself. “Becoming a CASA was a natural fit for me, I knew it was where I belonged,” he says.
"Becoming a CASA was a natural fit for me, I knew it was where I belonged."
In his three years as a volunteer advocate, he has worked on 5 cases, all of which involved kids under two years old. “I was really surprised how fun it was to work with babies and toddlers! At first, I was worried about making a connection with them, but it was much easier than I thought. On my first case, I had trouble bonding with a young girl, but then one day on a visit, she ran to her bookshelf and grabbed her favorite book, and brought it over to me. That was a big moment. I knew she trusted me and we had connected.”
"You advocate for the kids you serve in all kinds of settings – you make sure that system works on their behalf.”
Ian’s work with CASA doesn’t stop with his volunteer advocacy. He has also been part of the CASA Superhero Run every year since 2012. Before he became a CASA, he also delivered a keynote address at a volunteer appreciation event, where he shared an important message. “I told them that being a CASA is a great opportunity to be a 'pain in the butt' in the service of justice. You advocate for the kids you serve in all kinds of settings – you make sure that system works on their behalf.”
Despite his busy schedule with his job as a judge and CASA advocacy, Ian also finds time to volunteer with a number of other organizations including, among others, Shalom Austin, Texas Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, UT, and the Supreme Court of Texas Children's Commission. He is also involved with the Austin trail running community through his club Trail Roots and he loves hanging out with his two dogs, Molly and Lola.
"The child welfare system is desperately in need of passionate volunteers and advocates. The more we can have, the better. Being able to use your voice to stand up in court on a child's behalf—there’s nothing quite like it."
Ian has a powerful message for people who are thinking about becoming CASA volunteers. “The child welfare system is desperately in need of passionate volunteers and advocates. The more we can have, the better. Children are coming into the system because they come from hard places. They require all the effective advocacy they can get, and you can have a major impact on a child’s life. You will get so much out of it on a personal level as well. Being able to use your voice to stand up in court on a child's behalf—there’s nothing quite like it.”
Could CASA be your passion? The children we serve are waiting for dedicated and caring community members just like you. Learn more on our Volunteer page or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom. If you're ready to begin your volunteer journey, apply today!
2021 Featured Volunteer Story March Volunteer Profiles