by Sara Blake
Madelyn Morey has been a CASA volunteer for 13 years, but has been making an impact in children’s lives for most of her life as a mother, a grandmother, and as a high school counselor. “I actually had both of my children as counselees,” laughs Madelyn, “which I’m sure they didn’t particularly enjoy.”
Madelyn studied at Indiana University and went on to complete her Masters in Counseling at Texas A&M. At that time, there were not many women in her Master’s program, especially women who weren’t married. “It was a whole different atmosphere,” Madelyn recalls. Though she began as a math teacher, Madelyn later received her Diagnostician Certificate, allowing her to do intelligence and aptitude testing for students and combine those results with other factors to determine whether the children would qualify for special services the school provided.
Madelyn first heard about CASA while working as a school counselor in the Edinburg school system in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the country. “Counseling was a vocation I loved. I got to see kids and families up close,” explains Madelyn. “Their parents revered educators and were so appreciative.” Most of the students she worked with were Hispanic and potential first-generation college students.
Once Madelyn retired and moved to Austin, she decided to become a CASA volunteer. Madelyn jumped right in her first case with five children lasting five years. One of the biggest hurdles for Madelyn as a CASA volunteer was accepting that, though every effort is made to keep families intact, siblings are sometimes separated. In her first case, two of the siblings stayed together while the rest found separate adoptive homes. “Luckily, we have judges who place adopted kids with same-sex parents and are open-minded enough for that,” Madelyn says.
“Being assigned a new case every week has shown me that there is still such a need for resources.”
In 2015, Madelyn celebrated her 10th anniversary as a CASA volunteer. With a growing family in and out of Texas, Madelyn realized she wanted a flexible way to stay involved with CASA. Early Family Engagement (EFE) became a great fit for Madelyn, and she continues to work EFE cases when she’s in town. “Being assigned a new case every week has shown me that there is still such a need for resources,” says Madelyn. And EFE was an adjustment for her after a decade on long-term cases: “The con is not having the same relationships with the children. Or going to interview family knowing you won’t see them again. But the pro is you can still contribute to CASA by working these shorter cases. It’s very rewarding; you get to meet all the different parties in court and get an idea of all sides of the case.”
“I’ve really enjoyed all the cases I’ve been given,” shares Madelyn. “CASA is a fantastic organization full of people that really care about giving back, which is so important especially with our current climate.”
Knowing that children are more likely to end up with family if relatives are engaged early as connections and placements, CASA of Travis County initiated the Early Family Engagement program. EFE utilizes CASA volunteers as the first point of contact for children and families in the days immediately following the beginning of a CPS case. The EFE team serves as the primary entry point for all new cases, dispatching trained volunteers to conduct in-depth interviews with children and relatives in order to evaluate a child’s specific needs and to build relationships that will serve as the foundation for a productive case. If you are a current CASA volunteer and are interested in becoming an EFE volunteer, email Director of Program Innovation Catherine Jones and consider attending our next EFE training on Thursday, August 2 from 6-8:30 pm. You can also visit our Special Initiatives page to learn more.
Volunteer Profiles 2018 June