At first, Bianca wasn’t sure if volunteering with CASA was the right fit for her. Describing herself as “soft,” she knew there were difficult situations that could come up as a CASA volunteer. Then, in training, she heard her CASA Trainer identify as a soft, empathetic person, too. “I found that even though some of the situations are really difficult, being able to advocate for the children softens how hard everything is,” Bianca said.
“I found that even though some of the situations are really difficult, being able to advocate for the children softens how hard everything is,” Bianca said.
Bianca moved to Austin 16 years ago to study urban planning and community development. While she didn’t end up working in that field, her passion for community development is clear. A CASA volunteer for five years, she has used her empathetic nature as her strength, helping her to successfully mediate among members of a case. If a parent’s attorney can’t help a parent with resources like a daycare or transportation to a medical appointment, Bianca takes the initiative to do the research herself. “If we support the whole family, we are supporting the child,” she said.
In one case, a mom was ordered to participate in video therapy sessions but hadn’t shown up for two weeks in a row. The therapist reached out to Bianca letting her know the mom wasn’t attending therapy as ordered. The next day, Bianca received a message from the mom saying she had lost her phone, gotten a new one and only knew Bianca’s phone number. “In this situation, the mom didn’t have a computer to do video therapy, had lost her phone, and didn’t have her passwords to be able to log into any applications. She didn’t have the tools to do what was asked of her,” Bianca said. “It’s not something we think about a lot — that some people don’t even have access to do the things we’re requiring them to do.”
Bianca’s role as a mediator had a powerful outcome for a six-month-old baby she was assigned to. Both of the parents had struggled with substance use, and the dad ended up being incarcerated. The mom was showing progress in treatment, but both sides of the family didn’t agree on much of the decision-making around the baby’s care. That’s where Bianca’s support came in. Despite a lot of animosity at the beginning, the family members became willing to put aside their feelings to support the best outcome for the baby. “It worked out really well to benefit the baby because the mom was able to get clean, stable, get a job and get housing. She now lives around the corner from the grandma who does childcare while the mom is at work. It really was a true success in that the families could be together to support each other and to support mom and baby in getting back on her feet.”
“Beyond CASA, if the potential family members aren’t on the same page, who’s going to get them on the same page?”
Finding solutions throughout her case assignments has required keeping an open mind. “You have to be adaptable and be able to pivot very easily without getting too flustered,” she said. She sees the role of CASA as having a unique vantage point unlike anyone else on the case. “Beyond CASA, if the potential family members aren’t on the same page, who’s going to get them on the same page?” she said.
Through the many resources Bianca has navigated as a volunteer, she’s reflected on how important it is for everyone to live in an accessible community. “What I need accessible is not the same as a single mom with five children who lives in a commercial apartment building,” she said. “We are all responsible for the community we live in—for its people and its children.”
Featured Volunteer Story Volunteer Profiles 2022
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