After a 25-year, globe-trotting career as a chemical engineer for Celanese Corporation, Lisa Ryan found herself advocating for her aging parents. Professional skills like being calm in a crisis and staying team-focused translated well to elder advocacy. But would those same skills work when advocating for children?
What brought you to Dallas CASA?
I am single and don’t have children of my own, so CASA was not an obvious fit. After going through advocating for my parents through late-in-life medical issues, I came to realize those same skills could be used in other ways. After they had passed away, I picked up a Dallas CASA brochure at the annual Parade of Playhouses event at NorthPark Center. Once I attended an information session, the need was just too compelling not to go forward with an application.
Tell us about your first case.
I was assigned to a baby born addicted to drugs right after Christmas. Honestly, my first thought was “Can I do this?” But my supervisor was right there for me, orienting me and focusing me and guiding me where I needed to go. She went on my first visit with me, and I watched carefully how she asked questions and interacted with the baby. The same thing happened at court – my supervisor was right by my side, and I soaked in everything she did.
From there, I’ve worked many more cases with many different children. But one thing all the children notice is when you show up. A lot of them don’t have anyone in their lives. One of my CASA kids said in court “My CASA is the only person who always answers the phone when I call.”
What keeps you at Dallas CASA?
I really enjoy getting to know the children and spending time with them, as well as working with the CPS caseworkers and children’s attorneys. And I feel very supported by my supervisor. There is never a situation my supervisor can’t help with.
Do you have one moment or one thing you’ve done that really showed you the value of a CASA volunteer?
For me, it’s not one moment but rather many smalls things: advocating for children in school environments, attending parent visits alongside the CPS caseworker, attending a doctor’s appointment with a mother who asked for my support and getting calls from CPS or the child’s attorney to discuss the case.
What gets you through the hard or frustrating times?
Talking to my supervisor, who is always open to venting if needed. And then remembering that everyone you are working with has multiple cases and children in their responsibility and is trying to do their best.