By Anne Koncki
“I’ve known for a long time what I was going to do when I retired from teaching,” Lynn said. What she was going to do? Become a CASA Volunteer.
Having served CASA of Travis County for 12 years, Lynn's teaching background combined with ongoing CASA trainings made for a smooth transition to the work of advocating for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Her first experiences as a teacher were in East Austin in the late 1970s and 1980, when schools in Austin were just becoming desegregated.
“I realized a lot of those kids were struggling to raise themselves because their parents were troubled and stressed with financial woes, addictions, health issues that aren’t well-addressed, and other inequalities in our culture that make it so difficult.”
“It was as much social work as it was teaching,” Lynn said. “I learned I was so fortunate in my childhood—I couldn’t have raised myself,” she said. “I realized a lot of those kids were struggling to raise themselves because their parents were troubled and stressed with financial woes, addictions, health issues that aren’t well-addressed, and other inequalities in our culture that make it so difficult.”
The situations of the families Lynn taught for were similar to those of the CASA cases she now works. Lynn spent her first several years working traditional cases. She loved taking kids on cultural outings like the Mexican American Cultural Center that allowed children to see how their own cultures are celebrated and appreciated.
These days, she's developed a passion for working with babies and identifying ways she can speak up for them. In her most recent case, Lynn was assigned to three siblings under 3 years old who had been removed from their home due to both abuse and neglect. Their mother struggled with extreme substance abuse that led her to leave them with people who couldn’t keep them safe.
“The boys were both so withdrawn that it took a long time for me to gain their trust,” Lynn said.
Lynn's experience working with children who have developmental and speech delays in schools system came in handy for these children. She also worked with several therapists to make sure the children received the emotional and mental support they needed. "It's a matter of persistence and asking again and again to make things happen," she said. Meanwhile, she continued to work on building a connection with each child on their own.
“I’ll never forget when I arrived for a visit and the youngest baby crawled right to me; even though I was wearing a mask, he showed that he recognized and felt safe with me,” she said.
Lynn acknowledges it's not always easy, but working with children and families who are in difficult situations is a part of addressing systemic injustices.
"Parents' love for their children has never failed to come through."
"Becoming a volunteer is a natural fit for anyone who’s been a teacher but also anyone who’s been a parent. It takes a lot to be a parent even in stable situations—just about everything anybody has. To think of someone trying to do that while coping with abusive relationships, or addiction issues and dysfunction, or lack of mental health services is so challenging," she said. "But their love for these children has never failed to come through."
For Lynn, the knowledge that she always has support as a CASA Volunteer provides an extra comfort. “It’s a definite time commitment, but the training is excellent, and you always have backup,” Lynn said. “CASA of Travis County has fantastic people. Every one of my supervisors through the years has been great. They are thoroughly and carefully vetted—you have to be an exceptional person to be at CASA.”
You can join Lynn in being a powerful voice for a child who needs you! Learn more about becoming an advocate on our volunteer page, apply now, or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session!
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