Rowland Henshaw came to Dallas CASA as a young single man who had recently moved to Dallas for an analyst job at ExxonMobil. Originally from the south side of Houston, Rowland graduated from Baylor University with a mechanical engineering degree and then received an MBA from Georgetown University. Though only 27 and getting to know a new city, Rowland was looking for meaning and impact when he heard Dallas CASA needed more Black male volunteer advocates.

What brought you to Dallas CASA?

After moving to Dallas in 2020, I wanted a volunteer opportunity more sustained than just a weekend event. I was drawn to the way CASA would allow me direct contribution and intervention with a young person, something I might have appreciated when I had hardships of my own growing up.

You’re currently serving a 13-year-old placed in a residential treatment center out of the area. How are you able to maintain a connection with him?

I’ve simply made it a habit to call and reach out to him whenever I can, in addition to in-person visits. I tend to argue with him about the superheroes he’s obsessed with and his take on recent science-fiction films. During these light conversations, I can also slip in some advocacy by asking how the food has been lately or how the staff is treating him. It’s a way to check he’s being consistently taken care of without making our interactions feel like an interrogation. His case manager is also great, giving me updates that allow me to offer him specific affirmation or encouragement when it’s needed.

What have you learned about the child welfare system?

The child welfare system is at the intersection of medicine, policy, law enforcement, social outreach and child-care, which is very intimidating considering I don’t have experience with any of those fields. I came into the process with no concrete expectations of this system, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the attitude of each of the representatives of those branches that I come into contact with: CPS, attorneys, CASA supervisors, etc. Despite the sometimes somber circumstances and subject matter we’re involved in, I’ve been pleased with the positivity and non-judgmental attitude they’ve brought to each conversation. They have likely seen a wide variety of outcomes but still seem to approach each of their cases without a cynical or jaded view of what could happen. It gives me hope and confirms that they do their jobs because they genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of the kids in their cases.

You attended a performing arts high school in Houston. What’s your artistic gift?

I went to the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts for music. I played the bassoon though not well enough that I could devote my life to it. I still dabble in music, doing amateur pop production and composition.

As a young man, you’ve been assigned to advocate for a teenager. You’re also both Black. Do you think this has been an advantage for the child you’re serving?

This is my first case, so I specifically requested a middle age range because I wanted to be able to communicate directly with my child. Having a toddler seemed like it would be too difficult of a challenge for my first case. Part of the reason I’m covering this case is because I was told up-front: “there is a lack of Black men in CASA, and this teen in particular would benefit from seeing someone like himself for once.” Ultimately, they were right – my kid and I have a very open and friendly dialogue. Previously, he had been reported to be defensive and quiet with other volunteers. It doesn’t mean that all (or any) of our conversations are on the topic of race, but I can imagine – even for myself in the corporate environment – that having a “familiar face” can be an initial step towards feeling less out of place.