Being involved in CASA has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have had the honor and the privilege to serve both as a CASA volunteer and a CASA board member on the state and local level. Each of these responsibilities has shown me the difference that can be made when a community of people, wanting to improve the lives of children, band together.
Texas CASA is dedicated to supporting the 69 CASA programs our state while strenghtening those programs in effectiveness, quality, knowledge, training, and integrity. As a CASA volunteer, with the training provided to me by the CASA network, I am confident in seeking the best interest of my child so that she might also have an opportuinty to experience the joys of family, education, careers, and pursuit of happiness. Being a CASA has made a true difference in the lives of the children I have served, Become a CASA!
As president of a private foundation in Houston for 8 years, I was able to evaluate grant requests from a large number of not-for profit organizations. Our foundation provided grants to organizations who made a significant difference in the lives of abused or neglected children, the homeless, victims of domestic violence, and many other programs designed to assist those who are less fortunate or afflicted.
When I retired from the foundation, I wanted to continue to assist this population in some manner. After careful thought concerning the many worthy organizations I had worked with, my choice was to become a CASA volunteer. Now, 6 years later, I find myself as President of the Texas CASA board. I sleep better at night knowing that in some small way I have something to do with serving over 22,000 abused or neglected children with a CASA volunteer. I hope some day that CASA will have the resources to serve the other 25,000 abused or neglected children who do not have a CASA.
Texas CASA is committed to ensuring that all funds – private and public – are spent effectively, efficiently and appropriately. We welcome the opportunity to discuss what we do to ensure that happens.
Texas CASA is the voluntary membership association of 69 local independent CASA programs that serve children in 206 counties in Texas. Each CASA program is an independent 501(c)3 with its own governing board which hires the executive director and oversees the program’s budget and operations. Texas CASA does not have the authority to hire or fire any staff at the local program level.
To ensure that all funds allocated for CASA are spent appropriately, Texas CASA has implemented a three-part system to identify potential problems that local CASA programs may experience.
1) Mandatory Board Officer Training - The Texas Office of the Attorney General requires as a condition of funding that each local CASA board of directors send a board officer each year to a training provided by Texas CASA. That training includes educating board officers on their duties and responsibilities, particularly fiduciary responsibilities. The training also informs them of best practices in finance and operations.
2) Quality Assurance Reviews - During biennial quality assurance reviews of each local CASA program, Texas CASA examines policies and procedures and reviews financial and operational practices to ensure that best practices are being followed in those areas.
3) Independent Financial Audits - Texas CASA requires each program to conduct an annual independent audit by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as a condition of receiving state and federal funds that pass through Texas CASA. These audits are submitted to Texas CASA for review.
If a local program does not send a board officer to the mandatory training, if a program is found out of compliance during the QA process and/or if the program does not conduct and submit its required independent audit, funds can – and have been – withheld until the program comes into compliance.
As a result of this three-part system of checks, some of the issues mentioned have come to light. When they have, Texas CASA has reported to appropriate local, state and federal authorities that possible inappropriate expenditures have been identified.
When a CASA program or a concerned stakeholder notifies Texas CASA of possible fraud, misuse of funds or other irregularities, Texas CASA will place the program on financial hold and request the local board contract with an independent certified forensic auditor to conduct a forensic audit. The continuation of the program’s grant funding is determined only after the forensic audit is completed and submitted to and accepted by Texas CASA.
Texas CASA works with the local board of directors to implement safeguards and reduce risks so that public and private funds are used efficiently, effectively and according to the grantors’ and donors’ wishes.
Texas CASA is committed to ensuring that all resources are expended appropriately so that children in foster care receive the highest quality of advocacy.
While the CASAs in Texas provide assistance to many neglected and abused children. there are several that are run by corrupt individuals in positions as Executive Directors, e.g., one who embezzled funds, one who committed credit card fraud, and one who committed fraud by documenting personal time off as work time. The latter was reported to National and Texas CASAs with no action against the executive director. In addition, local board members failed in their fiduciary responsibility by ignoring the fraudulent documentation. The State CASA Executive Director, in my opinion, swept the incident under the rug. The State CASA couldn't cover up the former violations since law enforcement became involved and both executive directors were prosecuted. It's a sad state of affairs when both National and State CASAs did not take proactive action against such violators. It brings to question how much other public and donor funds have been stolen.