What got you into nonprofit work originally?
I have always had a passion for working with children, and I knew that my career would eventually lead me there. It took me 6 years of work experience to figure out that working solely for profit or for the bottom line did not work for me, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Fortunately, an opportunity with MDA came open, and so my nonprofit journey began.
Why have you worked with CASA so long? What inspires you about the mission and model?
I have been exposed to the child welfare system since I was very young. My mother was a CPS caseworker. I grew up going to the foster children holiday parties and participating in the holiday toy drives. My mom didn’t speak a great deal about her job though, and I didn’t know if I was interested or not.
Fast forward 13 years. I left nonprofit work for a short time, and a colleague of mine mentioned attending a CASA board meeting. I recognized CASA and my interest in it showed. He even asked if I would like to join the board. I decided to become a volunteer instead, and I chose Williamson County knowing that CASA had recently formed there and was in critical need of volunteers. Within a few months, the executive director position came open, and I knew it was where I needed to be. CASA brings a critical issue back to the community. Child welfare is an issue that we’ve handed off to the government, but the system is under-resourced and not meant to be a permanent parenting option. It can be what is needed in the short-term in moments of crisis, but the long-term solution has to come from us. CASA provides a model in which the state government and the community can work hand in hand to improve the lives of children.
And our community answers the call! Once I started volunteering and then working with CASA, it was amazing to watch the volunteers do their work and the effect it has had on the community in general. The main focus is the children, and the CASA model makes the whole system and community better by making more people aware of many issues. It makes a difference in so many ways.
What are you excited about in your new role with Travis County?
I’m excited about being in the state capital at a time when there are massive changes happening in the child welfare system. There are many different challenges, but they lead to opportunities to do better for children. I wanted to have the ability to be right here with an organization that is very well established – in the city, state and across the country – to be able to have that say and help lead that change.
What do you want to see happen for CASA of Travis County and CASA statewide and nationally?
We definitely want to be able to provide a volunteer for every child. Regardless of the state of DFPS, community involvement is crucial, because the state cannot be the sole caretaker of our children in distress. We have to take responsibility as a community. CASA is here to do that in a way people can trust.
Fortunately, in Texas our model allows us to be creative, innovative, and flexible. We can help spread information, best practices and passion from Austin throughout the state and the nation.
Alisa graduated from Rice University and the majority of her background is in nonprofit fundraising, including work with MDA and the Austin Lyric Opera. Last year, she was awarded the J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award by the Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities for her outstanding commitment to child safety and injury prevention. She is an avid runner who really enjoys the CASA Superhero Run every year and encourages people to sign up for the race on September 18th. Above all, she loves spending time with her family, especially her two boys.
Advocacy 2016 July