Mike Cavazos gets it. Addressing systemic barriers and injustices through volunteering is complex work, but he believes in the change that can result. This motivates him to give back to organizations that make a tangible difference. For him, CASA is one of those organizations.
"My career in high tech was to-the-point, no beating around the bush. And with these cases I learned to have a more subtle, sophisticated approach,” Mike said.
Mike’s understanding of the complexities present in his cases stems in part from growing up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, one of the highest poverty areas of the state. There, his mother served underprivileged children as a social worker. He often heard about the needs of children who had experienced abuse or neglect, and how those needs were not being met.
Mike acknowledges that volunteering often involves ups and downs on the path to stability in a child’s life. In one of his cases, the mother of an adolescent boy he advocated for decided to terminate her parental rights early on in the case; she would no longer be involved in her child’s life. Mike, along with the boy’s Child Protection Services (CPS) case worker, were the ones to sit him down and tell him the news. “It was terrible. It was heartbreaking,” Mike said. Months of challenges displaced the boy various times, including to a shelter and a juvenile mental health facility. Mike reached out to many relatives seeking an appropriate home (before the Family Finding program at CASA was officially formed), and he and the team were able to find one with the boy’s grandma and her fiancé, which happened to be 300 miles away. Complications with this placement created barriers that Mike, the child’s attorney, and the CPS caseworker had to overcome, but in the end, the judge ordered the child to be placed there, and he thrived.
“It was a happy ending but it’s a tale of persistence and patience. It was not a linear progression with a bunch of highs and lows—it was two steps forward and one step back,” Mike said.
As he approaches 10 years of volunteering for CASA in June, he recognizes that the people he’s worked with in the child welfare system have inspired him personally and helped him become a better advocate. “I’ve met some incredible CPS case workers. My career in high tech was to-the-point, no beating around the bush. And with these cases I learned to have a more subtle, sophisticated approach,” he said.
It’s hard for Mike to choose just one organization to volunteer for, so he doesn’t choose: MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), We Are Blood, Austin Partners and Education, the Ghisallo Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters are among the other organizations he’s served. His service at Big Brothers Big Sisters spanned 11 years, during which he mentored two boys for the duration prior to volunteering with CASA. Once he retired, he remembered a friend had spoken highly of CASA, and he thought he’d try it out.
“Two months after I retired, I was sitting at an Info Session, and three months later I was an official volunteer,” he said.
“I tell people volunteering with CASA has fulfilled every expectation that I have. I have absolutely no regrets about making this decision,” Mike said.
While he’s motivated by the people that surround him as a CASA volunteer, he said believing in the mission should be number one for someone who’s thinking about volunteering with CASA. “At least go in wanting to give everything you’ve got to the mission. That’s all we can ask for."
Through working 11 cases and serving 17 children, Mike has given everything he has in each visit, conversation, and interaction. “I tell people volunteering with CASA has fulfilled every expectation that I have. I have absolutely no regrets about making this decision,” he said. The positive impact he’s made through a decade of volunteering is proof that belief in the mission is the first step to creating change.
Volunteer Profile 2023 Volunteer Advocate