A systems administrator for North Texas Food Bank, Mark Barbaree is working his second Dallas CASA case. He says the lessons learned in the process have allowed him to see the child welfare system in a new light.
What brought you to Dallas CASA?
I think everyone needs to be invested in their community. A great deal of what an advocate does is simply cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy, and past professional experiences made me uniquely suited to do just that.
What keeps you going when a case gets hard?
I have to remember that no one else is standing in line to take over this problem. In many ways, we are the last line of defense against a vulnerable child being lost in the system. If we don’t do it, it simply won’t get done.
Do you have one moment on a case that really showed you the value of a CASA?
There are many moments, but the main ones that stand out are when the judge listens to me in court. I explain my reasoning and why I feel like something is the best course of action. This is where CASA can really make a difference.
Your supervisor shared that on a recent case you traveled to East Texas and spent much of the night with Child Protective Services searching for a runaway foster child.
Many times as a CASA volunteer, it is up to you to be willing to make the difference. We were fortunate to find him that night and convinced him to go with us. We have since found a better placement for him. My hope for this teen is that he will know I’m on his side and will trust he can reach out at any time and together we will find solutions.
Any advocacy tips for others?
Remember this is your child, your case and your responsibility. Trust your instincts and reach out for help when you need it. I’m fortunate to be blessed with a great supervisor who is always available. Remember that Child Protective Services and foster parents are generally doing the best they can under difficult circumstances so be respectful of the work they are doing. Many times, just proposing another point of view is enough to move things forward.