Annie Urbanus was excited to share with her dad that she had completed training to become a sworn child advocate for Dallas CASA.
But Jim Urbanus had beaten her to the punch. He’d just signed up to start his own training at Dallas CASA.
“At first, we were both just shocked that we’d signed up for the same volunteer role at the same time,” Annie said. “But then I said, ‘Hey, let’s partner up. Let’s share cases. Let’s do this together.’”
So, their journey began as a father-daughter volunteer duo advocating for children in foster care.
Their first case was three years long and ended with both father and daughter testifying in court about the best interests of the child. They’re now wrapping up their second shared case.
Annie, a dyslexia specialist for Richardson ISD, knew that teachers make good advocates but that the timing can be hard for them to attend hearings. Jim’s more flexible work schedule means he can do daytime meetings. As it turns out, partnering on cases draws out each partner’s strengths.
“I think I am the details person, while he’s the feelings guy,” said Annie. “I’ve got all the nuts and bolts, and he’s the relationship-builder. We make a great team.”
Jim, the chief advancement officer for Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, was ready to give back after raising his four children in Dallas. He came to Dallas CASA after reading an article about the overwhelmed child welfare system.
“Our family was so fortunate in so many ways,” he said. “A saying I heard from a friend is ‘Take care of your corner of the world.’ To me, that means we can only do what we can do. I can’t fix the entire system, but I can help the children I am assigned to advocate for.”
For Jim, volunteering with his adult child has had unexpected benefits beyond the service component. His other children have reached out to connect with him, too. Jim now serves as the assistant basketball coach with his youngest son, a teacher and coach at a parochial school.
“If Annie can do it, they can all do it,” he said. “Now they look for ways to engage with their parents.”
But the biggest blessing has been seeing his children as adults.
“Seeing Annie do her thing has been the best,” he said. “There’s just nothing better.”