CASA

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Travis County believes every child who’s been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in our community. To accomplish this, CASA educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each child’s needs remain a priority in an overburdened child welfare system. When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge appoints a trained volunteer advocate to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what’s best for the child.

Do you have 15-20 hours per month? Become a CASA Volunteer!

CASA volunteers come from every walk of life and share a commitment to improving children’s lives, a willingness to learn and an open mind towards life experiences different from their own. No special education, experience or background is needed.You can speak up for a child when they find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are made on their behalf.

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2020 CASA Superhero Fun Run

2020 CASA Superhero Fun Run

ANYTIME in SEPTEMBER — ANYWHERE, PLANET EARTH

Be a Superhero and join us and walk, jog, run, fly, dance or skip you way to helping the children of Travis County. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event is VIRTUAL which means you can do participate anytime during “SUPER SEPTEMBER”!

Geri’s Locker has been a long-time supporter of CASA of Travis County beginning with Geri Stewart volunteering with her sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpa Beta Psi Omega Chapter for CASA events and then she went on to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate. Since Geri’s passing, Dionn Schaffner has taken up the reigns and become a special advocate too, advocating for 9 children so far as well as being the Chair of CASA of Travis County Volunteer Council and CASA Blog Contributor.

CASA makes a significant impact in the lives of children in the system, but does not yet have enough resources to support every child in Travis County who needs their help.

Run your race(s) anytime during “Super September” and submit your times, distances and days! Virtual run registrants receive a “Texas Superheroes” BOCO Technical Trucker Hat (with kid sizes for 12 and under) for participating.

 

The Power of Words CASA Volunteer Party

The Power of Words CASA Volunteer Party

Thank you to CASA for a wonderful Volunteer Appreciation party last week! I loved the “Power of Words” theme and the activities at the party. (I hope you got a Typewriter Rodeo poem. They were amazing!)

I also had the fantastic opportunity to meet one of CASA’s longest-tenured volunteers, a sweet older gentleman who’s name I cannot remember but whose presence I will never forget.

He asked me to write something on the chalkboard that asked for Lessons Learned. I pondered and then wrote:

Poverty ≠ Neglect

He looked at that closely, nodding perceptively, “That’s good.”

It’s been an important distinction I’ve realized lately alongside of the notion of keeping in mind that often parents are doing the best they can WITH WHAT THEY KNOW. How many of our cases involve families who have been involved in the system across generations? At what point have our parents learned how to be good parents? What did they experience as a child? What examples did they see? What have THEY been taught?

I suppose that was part of the lessons from the Trauma-Informed Advocacy training. It reminds us to make sure we’re looking BEHIND the behaviors and understanding HOW we got to where we are.

“What about the inverse?“ he queried. Turns out, he and I had a lot in common in our educational backgrounds, as I later found out as we discovered our backgrounds in engineering and computer science when he commented on my use of the perhaps archaic ‘not equal’ symbol.

I looked back at the board. Neglect doesn’t equal poverty, in my opinion. I know plenty of folks whose families have all the resources they could ever need, and the children have more than their basic needs met yet they feel neglected. So, while the inverse could be true, the more interesting thought was:

Neglect = Emotional Poverty

Again, I was greeted with his nod of approval. “Yes.”

It seems society readily acknowledges the effects of physical poverty and there are fantastic resources available to combat that from Operation School Bell to EBT to Free Lunch Programs. But we need to just as readily acknowledge the effects of emotional poverty. Mental Health is a real issue and a significant component of the human experience. As we embrace the programs and solutions to address the physical needs, let’s make sure we are embracing the programs and solutions to address the emotional needs as well.

It is hard to draw water from an empty well. In order to support our kids, we need to support our parents too. Sometimes, they are doing the best they can with what they know.

2020 CASA Superhero Fun Run

2019 CASA Superhero Fun Run

September 15, 2019 — Broadmoor Campus, Austin, Texas

Be a Superhero and join us and walk, jog, run, fly, dance or skip you way to helping the children of Travis County at the fun, dog & kid friendly event!

Geri’s Locker has been a long-time supporter of CASA of Travis County beginning with Geri Stewart volunteering with her sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpa Beta Psi Omega Chapter for CASA events and then she went on to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate. Since Geri’s passing, Dionn Schaffner has taken up the reigns and become a special advocate too, so far advocating for 8 children.

CASA makes a significant impact in the lives of children in the system, but does not yet have enough resources to support every child in Travis County who needs their help.

Join us in becoming a part of the solution! Sign up to Run or Walk on our team on September 15, 2019 or Donate today!

Register to Run/Walk
Want to donate? Fill out the form below and contribute on behalf of the Geri’s Locker Hero Team!

From CASA’s Blog: Meet Volunteer Advocate Dionn Schaffner

From CASA’s Blog: Meet Volunteer Advocate Dionn Schaffner

Feb 25 2019

Meet Volunteer Advocate Dionn Schaffner

By Sara Blake

CASA volunteer Dionn Schaffner is in the middle of her second “Year of Yes.” After reading an article about Shonda Rhimes’ book by the same name, Dionn felt inspired to dedicate a year of her life to saying “yes” to each new opportunity.

“A lot of times we end up saying ‘no’ out of fear or nervousness. But I’ve realized that when you say ‘yes’, you either find something you love or you at least learn something from it!” laughs Dionn.

“A lot of times we end up saying ‘no’ out of fear or nervousness. But I’ve realized that when you say ‘yes’, you either find something you love or you at least learn something from it!”

The “Year of Yes” may be a more recent notion for Dionn, but her involvement in the community started years ago. Much of her effort revolved around her two children; one is in 8th grade, and the other is a high school senior. For nearly a decade, Dionn has volunteered as the choreographer and Director for River Place Student Theatre, a nonprofit organization that gives elementary students the chance to perform plays and musicals, and has managed communications and photography for her son’s football teams from Pop Warner through High School. She also coached a Pop Warner Cheer Team for 9 years, taking the team all the way to a National Championship and is currently the President of the Young Men’s Service League – Austin Viper Chapter.

18 months ago, Dionn’s life changed after going through a divorce and the death of her mother, Geri. Those two life events led to a good deal of self-reflection for Dionn, especially after seeing the impact her mother’s life had on their community. “At her Celebration of Life, we were able to hear from all of the organizations my mom was involved in. We had never heard it all in one place before,” Dionn shared. “My son turned to me and said ‘I had no idea GG did all of that stuff!'” Her mother’s legacy inspired Dionn to start a nonprofit in her honor, called Geri’s Locker. “My mom always said to give whatever you have; time, talent or treasure. Mom did the lion’s share of raising us on her own, and still always found ways to give her time and talent.”

Geri’s Locker was founded on the premise of enabling everyone a chance to give their time and talent. Its mission statement states that the organization is dedicated to providing “boots on the ground” and “hands on volunteers” to participate directly in local service projects. Geri’s Locker manages its own programs such as book and backpack drives for local schools, and also functions as a connection point to other nonprofits such as Meals on Wheels and CASA of Travis County. Dionn’s commitment to give back has not gone unnoticed by those around her: she was recently named a “Volunteer of the Year” by Pop Warner Little Scholars and “Community Volunteer of the Year” by the West Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Dionn was recently named a “Volunteer of the Year” by Pop Warner Little Scholars and “Community Volunteer of the Year” by the West Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Dionn’s desire to become a CASA volunteer also came from her mother, who was a volunteer for CASA herself. She thought it would be a great way to give back and honor her mother’s legacy. Dionn started with the TAPP team (Teen Advocacy and Permanency Project).

“Right now I’m in the throes of teenage-hood with my own kids, and trying to teach them all the skills they need to know before starting adulthood. So what about those kids who are about to age out and are moving from home to home, and who don’t have somebody? Who don’t have these kinds of skills, like how to do laundry or write a check or open a bank account?” Dionn asks. She notes that a teen’s traumatic background brings other challenging elements to this work as well. “I took the Trauma-Informed Advocacy Training at CASA—I think every parent should take one of these classes!”

Dionn is also passionate about representation in the child welfare system. As an African-American woman, she has asked to be paired with black girls on her cases when possible.

“Systemically, historically, a lot of these kids are not starting at the same point as everyone else. They have hurdles to overcome, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t motivated.”

“Representation is important, and it’s another thing that called me to CASA. Black kids are overrepresented in the system, and I thought it might be useful to have someone like me there as a volunteer,” Dionn shares. “Systemically, historically, a lot of these kids are not starting at the same point as everyone else. They have hurdles to overcome, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t motivated. So what can I personally do to help them overcome these barriers? Sometimes it’s just logistically getting things done. Other parties may not have the same breadth of access and time to look at all those pieces like CASA does. I think it makes a difference to be able to have a person who can look at the entire spectrum of the case, and say to the child,  ‘you are my focus'”.

“Have you ever heard of a Zorro Circle?” asks Dionn. She goes on to explain a concept that Sean Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, created, inspired by the character of Zorro. “Zorro learned to fight in a small circle first. Once he mastered the battle in that space, he expanded the circle,” she explains. “My circle used to just be my kids. Now, as they’ve gotten older, there’s been a shift and I’ve expanded the circle to make an impact outside of just my own family.”

Dionn shares that there’s a hashtag she likes to use: #liftingasweclimb. “What if everybody just pulled one other person up a little bit? That’s how we close the gap. What if you just took one person with you?”

CASA Super Hero 5k Fun Run

CASA Super Hero 5k Fun Run

We’re running in honor of my mom, Geri Stewart as a testament to her life of giving back to others with her time, talent and treasure. Join us for a great cause!

With great power comes great responsibility. That is why we are running and fundraising to help children who’ve been through abuse or neglect have the powerful voice of a CASA volunteer, a true superhero to guide them through the toughest moments in their young lives. Today we are asking you to join forces with us to help every child who needs one have their own superhero volunteer. Thank you for using your power for good!

News

2020 CASA Superhero Fun Run

ANYTIME in SEPTEMBER — ANYWHERE, PLANET EARTH Be a Superhero and join us and walk, jog, run, fly, dance or skip you way to helping the children of Travis County. Due to COVID-19, this year's event is VIRTUAL which means you can do participate anytime during "SUPER...

The Power of Words CASA Volunteer Party

Thank you to CASA for a wonderful Volunteer Appreciation party last week! I loved the “Power of Words” theme and the activities at the party. (I hope you got a Typewriter Rodeo poem. They were amazing!) I also had the fantastic opportunity to meet one of CASA’s...

2019 CASA Superhero Fun Run

September 15, 2019 — Broadmoor Campus, Austin, Texas Be a Superhero and join us and walk, jog, run, fly, dance or skip you way to helping the children of Travis County at the fun, dog & kid friendly event! Geri’s Locker has been a long-time supporter of CASA of...

From CASA’s Blog: Meet Volunteer Advocate Dionn Schaffner

Feb 25 2019 Meet Volunteer Advocate Dionn Schaffner By Sara Blake CASA volunteer Dionn Schaffner is in the middle of her second "Year of Yes." After reading an article about Shonda Rhimes' book by the same name, Dionn felt inspired to dedicate a year of her life to...

CASA Super Hero 5k Fun Run

We’re running in honor of my mom, Geri Stewart as a testament to her life of giving back to others with her time, talent and treasure. Join us for a great cause! With great power comes great responsibility. That is why we are running and fundraising to help children...