CASA volunteers rely on hard work, big hearts

Advocates help
children who are
victims of abuse

Maria LaraReporter

Diana Booth, outreach director for CASA, has been a devoted worker for over seven years.

Booth has been fulfilling her life by helping and saving children from unfortunate situations.

“My personal mission is helping every child find a forever Christmas. Traditions play a very important role in the holidays and in our families,” Booth said. “Foster children will never know where they will be next Christmas. We want to find them a permanent home so they can carry on their own traditions and pass it on to their kids and their children’s children.”

CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a network of nonprofit organizations that train and support volunteer advocates for children removed from their homes because of neglect and abuse. The organization was founded in 1977 by Judge David Soukup in Seattle, Wash.

Soukup was tired of seeing the same families come in and out of court because of neglect and abuse. The law wasn’t working for these families and he wanted to find a solution that would help the children and their families break the abuse patterns.

The CASA organization is built on hard work, dedication and heart. The people behind all the months of investigation are CASA volunteers.

Joy Dupnik has been volunteering with CASA for about four years. Dupnik was first drawn to the organization after a couple of years of volunteering at the women’s shelter and didn’t feel as if she was making much of a difference and wanted a change. She wanted to help, and helping children was on top of her list. 

CASA volunteers read over the child’s file and interview every person involved in their lives. The advocate’s job is to get the entire picture and learn what is in the child’s best interest.

“My absolute favorite part of my job is when the kids run up to me and tell me they love me,” Dupnik said.

Her family was so moved by her experience with the organization that her husband and daughter also became advocates of the CASA foundation.

Dupnik encourages other families or individuals who enjoy helping others and especially children.

“If you like kids, you’ll love this job,” she said. “Helping the kids is the best part. Plus you get to play with the kids all day.”

Being a volunteer takes much dedication because the children are counting on them.

Erin Aguirre, volunteer trainer, started as a volunteer for two years and joined the CASA team in May.

Becoming a CASA volunteer is an investment of time, energy and heart. CASA volunteers go through 30 hours of training, background checks and are required to have a valid driver’s license and insurance.

Once volunteers have completed their training they are sworn in by a judge and become CASA advocates. CASA’s organization provides a voice for children.

CASA volunteers are assigned by a judge to spend time getting to know the children in the child welfare system and to help find a safe, permanent home for them. When the children go to court, the CASA volunteers are there advocate for the children’s best interest, after having spent countless hours researching the options and matching those options with what is best for a specific child.

“We need volunteers. It is a great learning experience and it is something you will do and never regret,” Aguirre said.

Two CASA volunteers, Tammy and Rob Connolly, worked on their first case together as husband and wife. The two children they helped, who were 2 and 3 years old, came from a life of neglect and abuse.

“It was terrifying for me, but my husband and I had to stare down our fears as we worked this case,” Tammy Connolly said. “The children kept us going; when we visited them we looked in their eyes and knew they needed us. They could not do this for themselves. In the end, it was incredibly rewarding.”

Without volunteers CASA wouldn’t be able to fulfill its mission of helping children.

Statistics show children with CASA volunteers are less likely to spend three or more years in foster care and less likely to re-enter care once they have a permanent home.

Last year just 376 of over 800 foster children in the Coastal Bend area had CASA volunteers to help them find their safe, forever homes.

CASA can find more forever homes for all the children in the system with your help.

If you love children and can find a couple of hours out of your week to help make a difference, CASA is only a phone call away.

CASA encourages people from all cultures and professions and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds.

As a CASA volunteer, you are empowered by the courts to help make this dream a reality.

For more information on finding every foster child a forever home contact CASA at 884-2272 or visit

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