Meet CASA Volunteer Jeffrey Underwood
Jeffrey is a dedicated advocate and friend of CASA of Denton County! Here’s what he said about his experience as a CASA:
Why did you become a CASA?
I truly feel that I was called to CASA. A friend who was a volunteer advocate told me about the organization at a time in my life when I was ready to give back more to my community. I was hesitant because I’d never worked with kids since I WAS one. She worked on me for several months, and I saw a “Men of CASA” flyer, inviting potential male advocates to come to a mixer. I went, and was intrigued by the need presented by CASA staff–but I still didn’t pull the trigger after the informational. A month later I was on a flight back home, and struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, and she happened to be a CPS caseworker. I told her of my introduction to CASA, and before I could share my unreadiness, she started beaming about how great an advocate I would be! That was 3 strikes for me, and I didn’t need God continuing to beat me over the head! I went to the very next orientation, got into the training classes, and next thing you know, I was proudly being sworn in to serve the Texas family courts!
What has kept you with us?
The kids I’ve advocated for are better off having had me in their lives. I can feel it, and I can see it in the outcomes. CPS and other caseworkers don’t always have the time to have extended visits with all of their children each month. But I’ve got the time, I’ve got the heart, and I’ve got no excuses as I continue changing the future of every child I work with. So far I’ve helped 10 kids navigate to a permanent, safe home since I became a CASA, and am working on 3 more today!
What surprised you about your work for CASA?
Even though kids don’t always tell you, you can see the impact you have on their lives. Their behavior improves, their outlook brightens, and I didn’t expect to have such a genuine attachment to each and every one of them. It’s been an amazing journey.
Can you think of a time or two when you really felt you made a difference?
I got my very first case just days after being sworn in, even though my CASA supervisor had said that I’d be given a little time to take in all that I’d learned during my training. However, there were these siblings in a case that came across her desk that she felt that I’d be perfect for, and I accepted it based on their back story. I made my first visit to meet them in what was an unexpectedly beautiful placement as I pulled up. I had a conversation with the caregiver downstairs in the comfortable living room, and then went upstairs to introduce myself to the children in their bedroom. As promised by my supervisor, they had infectious ear-to-ear smiles, and we had a nice chat. I noticed a tiny little bug on one of their shirt collars, and I naturally just reached up to pinch and kill it. It left behind a small bloody dot on his white collar, which I thought was odd. I’d never seen one, but something in my head said, “This is a bed bug. This is one of the signs I’d heard about on the news”. I asked them about any other bugs, and they admitted that, yes, they’d been bitten sometimes, but it was “okay”. I pulled back the sheets of one of their beds, and low and behold, the corner was FILLED with crawling bed bugs. Both beds, in fact, were infested with bed bugs, and on further inspection, I saw bugs in the corners of the room, and inside the closet! I alerted the caregiver, and they appeared so shocked. “They hadn’t said anything. I didn’t know!” was their honest response. I called my supervisor, and the CPS caseworker got the siblings moved the very next day. No one was really checking on these kids. No one was paying attention. I told myself, “THIS is why I became a CASA.” and those children were eventually adopted, and have now graduated high school!
Denton County has so many causes that are important. Why should people donate to CASA?
These kids that CASA impacts are often unseen. Children are so resilient, even in the face of trauma, abuse, and neglect. And they go to school with our own kids, typically looking no different than anyone else, and no one knows what trials they’re facing at home. These kids that have been removed from often the only family they know need another set of eyes on them. They need the heart of someone who cares about their current welfare, AND their future. Nothing builds a community more than a healthy, confident, and loved child. So we’re not only investing in their future, but in everyone else’s, too.