President and CEO, Dallas CASA
Billboards recruiting volunteers for Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) carry the message: Abused Children Can’t Wait. The statement echoes the message Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral powerfully delivered: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot say ‘tomorrow.’ His name is today.”
“For today’s child victim who feels lost and forgotten, it really doesn’t matter what strides we may hope to make in the distant future,” says Dallas CASA president and CEO Kathleen LaValle. “It’s what we do right now that matters.” What Dallas CASA is doing right now is making a difference for 95% of Dallas County children currently in protective care. Last year, more than 1,400 volunteer advocates provided the detailed information judges need to make sound decisions impacting more than 3,330 child victims. But more volunteers are needed each year.
“It’s what we do right now that matters.” -Kathleen LaValle
CASA volunteers form a caring connection with each child served, showing up in many significant ways during a frightening time of change and uncertainty. Seeing beyond each child’s difficult circumstances, CASA volunteers recognize the promise and potential within each child and encourage a child not to be defined or limited by the past. Importantly, CASA volunteers provide judges with detailed information and fact-based recommendations so that a child receives the educational, medical and therapeutic services he or she needs. When returning home is not a safe option, the volunteer helps identify a safe, loving home where a child can grow up and thrive.
Next year Dallas CASA will mark 40 years of serving vulnerable children who have been removed from unsafe homes. “A passion for children is the one characteristic our volunteers have in common,” LaValle says. Evenly spread across age brackets, with a high percentage fulltime employed, volunteers do not need a background in social work or family law. To learn more about this extraordinary volunteer experience, visit dallascasa.org.