Sep 10 2020

Voices of CASA Part Four: A Series on Race, Equity, and Inclusion

This piece is part of a series of blogs we will be publishing in the coming weeks written by CASA staff and volunteers on the importance of racial justice, equity, and inclusion. The goal of this series is to highlight the importance of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism education so that we can truly honor the best interests of every child CASA serves.

Here's a bit about the author of the following piece, Greg Trottie:
Greg Trottie is the Director of Quality and Safety at CASA of Travis County. In his current role, Greg’s focus is on quality assurance and child safety initiatives to help ensure the best possible advocacy for children’s well-being. Greg has been with CASA for over seven years and previously worked as a Teen Advocacy Specialist and Program Manager. He is a native of Louisiana, and prior to working with CASA of Travis County, worked with CASA of Cook County in Chicago, IL.

How CASA Addresses Disproportionality From the Inside Out

dis·pro·por·tion·ate·ly to an extent that is too large or too small in comparison with something else.

At CASA, disproportionality, or how the child welfare system disproportionately affects certain groups is an unavoidable truth in our work.

The numbers don’t lie: Children of color make up a disproportionate percentage of those in the child welfare system.

However, there’s some significant omission.

"We recognize that these numbers tell a larger story. And to fully see it, we must focus on the broader issues of inequality, systemic racism, and how these aspects of our country impact the children and families we serve."

We recognize that these numbers tell a larger story. And to fully see it, we must focus on the broader issues of inequality, systemic racism, and how these aspects of our country impact the children and families we serve.

Within our organization, there’s a lot of thought and energy put into discussing the reasons behind these numbers, and furthermore, what is within our power at CASA to shift them.

Race, Equity, and Inclusion

It Starts with Our Staff & Volunteers

Just as when we’re advocating for a child, when we choose to examine and address the country’s social ills or form opinions, this will inevitably have a ripple effect across the communities we live in and the communities we serve.

This is why our CASA Volunteer Training program has a strong focus on educating our advocates about systemic racism and disproportionality, and we regularly facilitate spaces for meet-ups and conversations on anti-racism, as well as offer additional trainings, like Knowing Who You Are, which helps participants develop a healthy sense of their racial and ethnic identity, with the hope that this will aid them in integrating anti-racist practices into their daily lives and advocacy.

We also hold spaces, meetings, and trainings for volunteers and staff members to learn about anti-racism and engage in crucial conversations. In the past, we’ve offered volunteers and staff the chance to participate in a workshop called “Knowing Who You Are,” and currently, we’re hard at work creating a new training on race and equity for our staff and volunteers that will translate to the virtual world.

"No matter how many trainings and meet-ups we’re able to offer to our volunteers and staff, we believe the space we’re able to create is pivotal for ensuring that our advocates feel empowered to use these principles in their roles and to recognize when systemic racism or inequality may be present within their own cases."

In the coming weeks, our entire staff will be taking a four-part workshop from Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, which will explore a number of issues including the impact of bias and prejudice on domestic violence survivors, historical trauma and trauma-informed care, allyship, advocacy, and more.

No matter how many trainings and meet-ups we’re able to offer to our volunteers and staff, we believe the space we’re able to create is pivotal for ensuring that our advocates feel empowered to use these principles in their roles and to recognize when systemic racism or inequality may be present within their own cases.

One of the key pieces to our success in educating our staff and volunteers lies within the framework we use for these discussions: The Four Agreements of Courageous Conversations, which comes from Glenn E. Singleton’s award-winning protocol and book titled Courageous Conversations About Race.

The Four Agreements of Courageous Conversations Are:

Speak Your Truth

Stay Engaged

Experience Discomfort

Expect/Accept Non-Closure

We use this framework because it allows for vulnerability while ensuring the safety of each participant, but it also enables us to explore the uncomfortable aspects of our country’s history that have created systemic and institutionalized racism.

"When children and families become involved in the child welfare system, we don’t just look at the singular event or events that caused CASA’s involvement."

Going Beyond Trainings & Discussions

When children and families become involved in the child welfare system, we don’t just look at the singular event or events that caused CASA’s involvement.

We get to know the child and the family—their fears, their history, and their hopes for the future. We look for the family’s strengths to find out where our support is needed.

But first, we take the time to educate ourselves and our volunteers on how to clearly see and understand the barriers that so many people we come into contact with disproportionately face.

This is what we do at CASA of Travis County—we take in all of the information available through observations and conversations. We make sure not to omit anything. We honor the individual experiences of the children and families we serve. Only then can we speak truth to power.

Interested in becoming a volunteer advocate? You can get started with our online Info Sessions and online Volunteer Training right now! Learn more on our Volunteer page or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom!

2020 Culture & Diversity Advocacy

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