“You are Valued, You are Loved, and You Deserve Better”
CASA’s renewed commitment to justice, anti-racism, and organizational diversity.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” -Chinese Proverb
The past weeks have been unlike any others at CASA. As we’ve thought over the senseless deaths in the communities surrounding us, we are heartbroken. We are infuriated by the way that George Floyd was treated in the last minutes of his life and confused and saddened at how, in 2020, any person can still be treated this way. We look inside of ourselves and look all around us to find answers, seek understanding, and try to grasp why injustice like this is still as apparent as it is in the world today. We struggle to understand, struggle to know our place to speak, and deeply yearn to live in a place where good triumphs over evil, communities are unified, and people – all people – feel safe.
At CASA, our daily mission is to care for the abused and oppressed. We fight for the vulnerable, give voices to the children that have been silenced by neglect, and advocate for safety, protection, and family. We fight to bring our children out of the shadows of abuse and neglect to let them be heard; to remove the weight of their oppressor and to tell them “you are valued, you are loved, and you deserve better.” We would never respond to the abuse suffered by our children with a feeling of, “that’s just how the world is.” In the same way, we refuse to respond to the racial injustices and police brutality occurring in our country by saying, “that’s just how the world is.”
In our discussion as a staff, the statement “To see a change, you have to be a change” was shared. As an organization that stands up every day to impact change in our world, we believe this statement with all of our hearts. We recognize that advocacy takes place in many forms – silent donations, peaceful protests, self-education, and more. We are not here to dictate or judge the way that any person chooses to advocate for the injustices surrounding us today, but only to advocate that justice is sought.
To every person of color who feels muted, misunderstood, unseen, or unsafe – we hear you, we see you, and we stand beside you. You are valued, you are loved, and you deserve better.
To every law enforcement officer, who feels vulnerable or misrepresented, and who still goes to work striving to ethically uphold justice in the community every day, we salute you, we appreciate you, and we stand beside you. You are valued, you are loved, you deserve better.
To every person who feels personally victimized by the tragedies surrounding us, our hearts break with yours, our tears fall with yours, and when you feel like you can’t stand anymore, we pray that you know we are with you, upholding you, and fighting for justice too.
And finally, to every child who is experiencing injustice in their life – whether it be the injustice of abuse, neglect, racism, senseless loss, or otherwise – you are valued, you are loved, and you deserve better. We stand ahead of you, fighting, so you can have the future you deserve.
In all of this, we have experienced a renewed conviction for the need for diversity within our own organization. We each live life in our own shoes and see the world through our own lens. There is so much to be learned from the experiences of the black community and other minorities who feel distanced, silenced, or removed from the conversation. Our black children need people who they can talk to about their own experiences of racial injustice, and we need people within our organization who will teach us, learn with us, and stand with us as we advocate for the fair protection of ALL.
We recognize that this is only the beginning. There are many more conversations to be had and each day we only see another small snapshot of the complexity of the issues before us. We commit to being part of the conversation and to being part of the solution. We renew our commitment to be an organization where racism is not tolerated, and where people of color feel welcomed, safe, and heard. We commit to serve justice and to do our part each day to move us all forward, because every person deserves to be safe, loved, and valued.
– Kimberly Weiser, Executive Director – CASA of Walker, San Jacinto, & Trinity Counties
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
– Ijeoma Oluo, Author of So You Want to Talk About Race
The CEO’s of Texas CASA and National CASA have also released statements of position. To learn more, continue reading below:
From the CEO of The National CASA/GAL Association:
There will never be another moment like this one in our lifetime.
I have only just a minute, 60 seconds in it, forced upon me, I did not choose it, but I must now use it, give account if I abuse it, suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute but eternity is in it.
–Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, educator and civil rights activist.
Dear CASA/GAL Family:
What will we do with our minute? How will we show up in this moment? How will we scrutinize our own work? How will we take advantage of the space and opportunity we have been given to make a difference in this moment?
What we are witnessing now in this moment, is our opportunity to stand taller for the injustices of the least of us, those that don’t look like us, those that don’t worship like us, those that don’t belong to our clubs, live in our neighborhoods and for those we may never meet. The least of these, those that feel forgotten, that feel invisible, the voiceless, the tired, the weak. Those that have long waited for their moment. That moment has now come, it wasn’t sudden, it wasn’t unexpected, and it was simply its time!
In this moment I have chosen to look inside and look around me. I have been given a tremendous opportunity as have all of you and the almost 100,000 CASA/GAL volunteers to make a difference, to change the narrative, to change the story of many of these very lives.
The pain and suffering we are seeing play out in the media this very moment is the type of pain and suffering the children and families we serve face every day. Families are being destroyed at alarming rates in this country through all forms of separation, from domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, abuse, neglect, mass incarceration, poverty, or violence. These issues leave a lasting traumatic effect. The work we do daily on behalf of more than 271,000 children, gives voice to many, but we all know there are so many more voices yet to be heard.
Our actions in this moment can transform the future. I’m already seeing actions in this moment that give me hope. Some of you have reached out asking what you can do and what we can do together. One action that reinforces our work together is the overwhelming participation in the first cultural awareness workshop held this week. More than 900 staff and volunteers were in attendance.
Nationally, I am also encouraged by the images of unity that I see with all of the diverse faces standing, conversing and kneeling together in unity, including members of law enforcement standing side-by-side with members of the community. Actions like these tell me there is hope.
George Floyd has a six-year old daughter, Gianna. She is a beautiful little girl who will grow up with the ugly reality that the world saw her father’s life taken away on the streets of her city. This image will play on in her mind forever. I thank God Gianna has a loving family of a mother, uncles, aunts, cousins and others that surround her.
I can’t help but ask myself, what if she didn’t have family? She would be one of the over 400,000 children in the foster care system. Perhaps she would have a CASA/GAL volunteer that would advocate for her best interest or perhaps she would quickly be adopted into another safe and loving home.
This isn’t her case, but it is the case for far too many of our children. The children, many of them of color, through circumstances beyond their control, are living in poverty, or without a parent because their family has been destroyed by senseless acts like the ones we have seen play out too many times. It’s simply too many, but we all have a minute with 60 seconds in it. Let’s use our collective minutes to fight the injustices we see around us and in the child-welfare system, together.
To all those on the frontline, fighting for justice, fairness and the dignity and rights of our children and families, I want you to know how deeply grateful I am to you. I am honored and proud to be given the opportunity to run this race with you! For all those feeling and experiencing the pain and suffering in a more visceral way, I’m with you. I have hope that there are brighter days ahead of us!
CEO, National CASA/GAL Association for Children
Texas CASA’s Renewed Commitment to Racial Justice
Texas CASA mourns the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers, and stands with all people affected by racism and injustice. The pain and protests throughout our nation speak a message that must be heard.
As an organization that strives to make Texas a state where all children and families can have safe and positive futures, we recognize that we are far from achieving that vision. As a society, we have significant work to do so that no adult or child faces violence at the hands of the very structures that should protect them.
The tragic, senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people at the hands of police result from systemic racism. These people should be alive today to love their families and live their lives fully. We stand with our Black colleagues, the Black youth and families of Texas, and our partners and collaborators in child welfare, to say that these deaths are unacceptable.
We recognize the need for all of the systems that affect children and families – our child welfare system, education system, healthcare system, criminal justice system, and others – to uplift justice and become actively anti-racist. Systemic racism’s impact on many families leads to injustices faced throughout daily life, and these create the disproportionality in outcomes that we must work to redress in the child welfare landscape. The unbearable pressures on vulnerable families must be swiftly and decisively transformed as part of the core work of child-serving agencies.
This process requires deep introspection and willingness to understand the histories of inequality that have helped shape our systems. It also requires imagination and a fierce will to transform them. Texas CASA is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. Our staff undertook a year-long learning process about equity, privilege and oppression in 2019. In 2020, we have been convening representatives of the 72 local CASA programs to discuss how those issues appear in the child welfare system and CASA’s work. In 2021, we will create an online equity and racial justice curriculum for CASA programs to offer to their staff and volunteers.
We join in solidarity with the people most harmed by injustice, and pledge to listen to their voices and leadership as we strive to become better advocates for all children and families. We will seek better ways to serve communities of color, to ensure that resources are equitably available and that the violence they are targeted by comes to an end.
In the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, we rededicate ourselves to build the world we want young people of all races to grow up in, healthy, safe and free.
Vicki Spriggs, CEO, Texas CASA