Our Stories

The Gallery of Hope is a visual narrative of what CASA does as an organization.  Our intent is for this project to create awareness and educate people about CASA. Through this collection of photos, we tell a story and illustrate the intimate relationship which occurs between Advocates and the children they serve.

CASA hosts an annual Gallery of Hope Gala to unveil the exhibit and showcase the inspiring stories of hope depicted.  For more information on the event or sponsoring the event, please click here or contact us at events@casa-satx.org.

Our Stories

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Fabian and Desire.   

Fabian (age 18 months) and Desire (age 7 months) had been removed from their mother, Amy, who was only 17, due to parental drug use and neglect. Sadly, Amy had a long Child Protective Services (CPS) history and trusted no one.  

Fabian was very aggressive toward Desire which manifested in hitting, biting, and pulling her hair.  Fabian was developmentally behind and unable to communicate verbally.  I advocated for Fabian to be assessed which led to him receiving services to help with his communication skills, thus improving his behavior. I advocated for a parent educator to help Amy with parenting skills, which helped Amy learn to bond with her children. CPS stated Amy was not able to provide for the basic needs of her children, which was in direct contradiction to what I observed.  While CPS did not see reunification as a possibility, Amy’s therapist, the parent educator and I all disagreed. Because I took the time to get to know Amy, saw that she truly loved her children, was doing what was required to have her children returned, and was determined not to repeat her mistakes, I was convinced her children should be returned to her.  Because of the communications I had with therapists, the parent educator, and personally witnessing Amy’s devotion and love for her children, I knew reunification was in the best interest of the children.

Today, the children are back at home with their mother and are safe and happy. Without my advocacy and communication with everyone involved, the judge would not have known all the facts that helped reunify this family.

I am Tammy Ramos, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Fabian and Desire.  I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Hilmy Productions

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Kaleb and Colton. 

I met Kaleb (age 2) and Colton (age 6 months) when they were reunited with their mother, Kate, after being removed from Child Protective Services (CPS) for neglect. Before this reunification, they had spent time in a loving foster home with Eric and Veronica Lamkin, who had adopted their half-brother, Isaiah.

It was quickly evident that Kate required significant support and help in establishing a safe, clean and nurturing home for her boys. I helped secure donations of household goods, toys and clothing.  I made sure Kate had access to individual and family therapy, in-home parenting, daycare for Kaleb, as well as assistance in securing food stamps and medical assistance for the boys.  Over the next four months, CPS and I worked hand in hand to make multiple home visits weekly.  Observed improvement was minimal. On several occasions, it was necessary for CPS to address unsafe practices. I advocated for both boys to be removed and placed with Eric and Veronica Lamkin, their previous foster parents, when it was observed that Kaleb was dirty and unkempt and Colton was eating rodent droppings off the floor.

When Kaleb was carried into the Lamkin home, he cupped his hands around Eric’s face and said “DaDa.” He was clearly home.  Since that day, Kaleb and Colton have lived with the Lamkins and their half-brother, Isaiah, and have recently been adopted. They are happy, inquisitive little boys.  This family of five has a future that is bright and encouraging.

I am Peggy Peterson, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Kaleb and Colton. I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Amanda Ruedemann

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Kassadina and Mellody.   

When I first met Kassadina (age 15) and Mellody (age 5) they were placed in the care of their maternal grandparents due to parental drug use and neglect. That first meeting helped lay the groundwork for the incredible relationship I have with this family. It didn’t take long for Mellody to warm up to me, but I found it difficult to understand her as she mumbled a lot. The grandparents and I agreed she was in need of speech therapy. As a result of my recommendation to the judge, Mellody began receiving speech therapy three times a week, producing a huge improvement in her speech. Additionally, Mellody had severe tooth decay and several cavities so we collectively saw that she received immediate treatment. Kassidina had moved from school to school and often complained she didn’t have stability. She had a group of friends who had become her support system so I advocated strongly for Kassidina to remain in the same school.  Kassadina and I had numerous conversations about her desire for normalcy. I made sure her feelings were validated and she had a safe person to talk to about these frustrations.

I am thrilled the girls had loving family members who were willing and able to do whatever was necessary to ensure the girls felt loved and wanted throughout the process. In the end, the parents relinquished their rights and the girls were adopted by their grandparents. I’m so happy and thankful that Kassadina and Mellody got their happy ending and their wish for a normal life.

I am Sarah Salgado, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Kassadina and Mellody.  I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Daniela Riojas

Our Stories

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life. Children like William, Joshua, and Juliette.

William (age 10), Joshua (age 5), and Juliette (age 4) were removed from their parents’ home due to domestic violence and ongoing drug abuse. Once I was assigned to the case, I identified and met all the key players and assessed the family's issues. The biggest red flag was the fact that the children were at two different relative placements and had limited contact with one another. Another huge concern was the fact that William had been in three different placements and had attended 3 different elementary schools in his short life. I advocated and ensured that William had a stable home environment to minimize further disruptive moves. After meeting the caregiver for the youngest children, I determined it was not a safe or appropriate home. I requested Child Protective Services research and identify a suitable alternative immediately. The children were soon placed with their brother, William, in one home. After the move, I immediately advocated for play therapy for all three children.

During the case, the parents were not able to provide a safe home and agreed to relinquish their rights so the other family members could adopt these three beautiful children as their own. The placement worked diligently to ensure the children still have quality family time with both sides of their extended families so they still grow up knowing their kin. The most lasting impact I provided in this case was consistency for the children and the ability for them to be together as siblings should.

I am Sara Blount, CASA Advocate. I was there for William, Joshua, and Juliette. I spoke up for them and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Josh Huskin

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like John Luke.

When I first met John Luke he was two weeks old clinging to life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He had been born extremely premature and was exposed to street drugs during his birth mother’s pregnancy. His birth mother announced upon her admission to the hospital that she did not want him and no father stepped forward to accept responsibility for his life. He was medically fragile and I felt like he needed someone.  That someone was me. I committed to being that stabilizing familiar force in his young life until we found him the right forever family.

I immediately began documenting his life so that when he was older he would know he was always loved and wanted. The impact that I had on John Luke’s life was to provide the human touch and bonding required for him to thrive while in the NICU. My presence also let the staff know that even though he was under the authority of Child Protective Services, he had someone who cared for him daily and that decisions concerning him mattered. He was not just a “ward of the state” but also a little boy who I deeply cared about. When John Luke was four months old, Teresa Tidwell and James Von Winkle welcomed our little miracle into their family where he is thriving and growing better than specialists expected. John Luke is a happy baby in a happy, forever home.

I am Toni Williams, CASA Advocate.  I was there for John Luke.  I spoke up for him, and I made a difference in his life.

Photos by Daniela Riojas

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Iris, Isabella, and Iliana. 

When I became their Advocate, the three girls had been living with their father for several years.  When their father re-married, Iris (15), Isabella (13), and Iliana (12) had no idea what horror was in store for them.  The stepmother systematically began to abuse, neglect, and torture each girl one at a time. They were humiliated and degraded by being forced to wear diapers to school where their stepmother would ensure their classmates knew and mocked them for it.  All were deprived of food on a regular basis, but Isabella in particular was starved.  The girls finally came to the attention of Child Protective Services when the stepmother forced Isabella to kneel on an abrasive stool with her hands on her head for extended periods of time, resulting in deep sores that showed muscle and bone. 

I made sure to establish an excellent relationship with the girls so that I could empower them and raise their self-confidence and self-worth.  I ensured the girls received therapy to help them deal with their feelings of pain and shame.  Thankfully, their birth mother was able to be located.  After months of therapy, tender care, and healing, the girls were reunited with their mother, have goals for the future, and are full of life.

I am Tom Nolan, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Iris, Isabella, and Iliana. I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Joe Raymond Vega

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Sebastian and Zackary. 

Sebastian (age 4) and Zackary (age 2) were removed from their home by Child Protective Services (CPS) due to drug use, neglectful supervision, and domestic violence and placed with an aunt.  When I met the children, I became concerned when I learned that the aunt’s boyfriend was a registered sex offender and was having regular contact with the children.  Once I notified CPS of this, the children were removed and placed in a shelter.  Unfortunately, after only a few months, they were moved yet again to a different shelter outside of town.  I made sure to be with the children during all transitions and visited regularly to decrease the children’s stress with all the changes.  I noticed Zackary had a speech delay so I advocated for him to receive a speech assessment and services. Sebastian displayed concerning behaviors, so I advocated for a psychiatric evaluation, which revealed tendencies on the autism spectrum.  As these concerns worsened, Sebastian was moved yet again.  Because of my advocacy, these boys were able to get all of their needs met even through all these moves.  

Unfortunately, during the case, both parents were shot due to their involvement with dangerous situations and were unable to provide a safe home for their children.  Their rights were terminated.  I advocated for a home to take both brothers and they were quickly placed together.  Sebastian and Zackary both have thrived in the safety and stability of this home.  Sebastian is no longer showing signs of developmental delays and Zackary’s speech has improved tremendously.  These children faced so many challenges with a multitude of placements, three different caseworkers, and many behavioral challenges.  Through it all, they had one dedicated CASA as their familiar face and support system. 

I am Linda Tepfenhardt, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Sebastian and Zackary. I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Amanda Ruedemann

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Jessica.   

Jessica was a 16-year-old youth with an 18-month-old son. She had been the victim of physical and sexual abuse. Her mother lived in Mexico. Her father was incarcerated in Huntsville. While living in Mexico with her mother, she became pregnant at the age of 14. Her baby’s father was allegedly shot and killed by the Mexican Police during a drug incident prior to the birth of her baby.

When I met Jessica for the first time in the visitation room at the Juvenile Detention Center, she was angry, untrusting, and defiant. She had been in placement with CPS for 7 months and had already run away from 2 placements. I saw a young teenage mom who was desperate; but who had a desire to be a loving mom for her son. Before being able to be a mom, Jessica needed to learn many skills to help her be successful. Over the next year, I pushed for therapy, parenting classes, sexual abuse classes, different placements, and more frequent visits with her son. Jessica and I established a bond that will never be broken.

Eventually, Jessica made the brave and loving decision to relinquish her rights as a mom. Her son had been in placement with the same loving foster parents for 18 months who wanted to adopt him.  Jessica continues to mature and improve herself as a young woman. She is very close to graduating from high school.  Her room is decorated with flowers and butterflies above the crib that awaits her new baby girl. She is almost 19 and is blossoming into a beautiful young woman.

I am Caren Redkey, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Jessica.  I spoke up for her and I made a difference in her life.

Photos by Lauren Rathbun

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Jovani and Robert.

I met Jovani (age 6) and Robert (age 5) after they had been removed by Child Protective Services (CPS) due to severe neglect as a result of parental drug use.  I immediately reached out to connect with the parents, grandparents, and children. I assisted the grandparents in getting Jovani and Robert medical appointments to get their immunizations updated and obtain much needed glasses. I also noticed Robert appeared to have a speech delay.  When I reviewed his educational records, I noticed his past teachers had recommended a speech evaluation but there was no follow up.  I brought this to the attention of the court and a speech evaluation was ordered, resulting in much needed speech therapy for Robert. I also began reading to Robert and encouraging his grandparents to do so as well. All of these efforts resulted in a significant improvement in Robert’s speech.

I also encouraged the mother and the father to address their drug habit and to use the resources made available to them by CPS.  Both of them showed an early determination to turn their lives around. While the father began to make steady progress, the mother was not able to break free of her addiction. The father took my advice to heart, got a job, and kicked his drug habit to provide a safe and permanent home for his children.  After seeing the father’s life changes, his commitment and bond with his children, and ensuring his clean drug tests, I advocated for his children to be returned to him.  The judge agreed with my recommendation and the boys continue to live in a safe, permanent home with their father.

I am Nikki Orsak, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Robert and Jovani.  I spoke up for them and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Leon Dacbert

Our Stories

Our Stories

Be the difference in a child’s life.  Children like Josielyn, Alejandro, and Francisco.   

Josielyn (age 6), Alejandro (age 5), and Francisco (age 3) were taken away from their mother due to neglectful supervision, alleged sexual abuse, and medical neglect.  Thankfully, the children were placed with several family members who were very involved. 

The children benefitted from many social and educational experiences provided by the family. Josielyn was delayed educationally.  I worked closely with the school and helped the caregiver provide educational assistance, procuring book donations and ensuring they had educational materials.  Over the months in relative placement, Josielyn experienced behavioral challenges which the family had trouble dealing with.  I helped the relative placement develop a plan on how to best handle these concerns. Many of the issues stemmed from the children’s instability and their history of moving from so many placements. I was there during the four moves the children experienced so they had one familiar face advocating for them throughout the case.  My presence throughout the case ensured that no information was lost in the midst of all the turnover and gave the children one person to support them and never give up on them.

Their mother began to complete services and take steps toward reunification with her children, which she ultimately accomplished. The mother has become a more confident, engaged parent and the family has worked to remedy Josielyn’s behavior issues. The mother’s advocacy for her child has resulted in Josielyn attending counseling and the children are doing well in school.

I am Peggy Peterson, CASA Advocate.  I was there for Josielyn, Alejandro, and Francisco.  I spoke up for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

Photos by Joe Raymond Vega

Our Stories

Our Stories

Help reach every child. Children like Santana and Isaiah.

These twin two-year-old boys were removed from their father’s home after he was arrested for shoplifting. He also had a drug habit, and the mother had not been around for months.

After a failed relative placement, Santana and Isaiah were placed in a foster home and I was assigned to their case. I immediately noticed that they did not speak much. As a result of my recommendation to the judge, they were given speech and occupational therapy.

I observed parent-child visits between the boys and their father and was impressed by the bond they had. He was engaged in most of his services, and was able to kick his drug habit and avoid criminal activity; however, he had problems maintaining employment and moved frequently.

With the final court hearing approaching, I realized that the children would not be able to return home. I remembered how happy the boys had been with the grandparents; and, after again visiting with them, I determined that their home would be the best placement.

Isaiah and Santana were eventually adopted by their grandparents. Without my advocacy, they would have been separated from their family and could have languished in the system. Instead, they have regained a forever home within their own family, and they are now happy and thriving.

I was there for Santana and Isaiah. I made a difference in their lives.

I am Nina Neish, and I have been a child Advocate for fourteen years.

Photos by Josh Huskin

Our Stories

Help reach every child. Children like Oscar, Felipe, Michael, Jazmyn, and Jerilyn.

We reached out to these children, who were too young to know that pain is not a normal way of life.

Oscar, Felipe, Michael, Jazmyn, and Jerilyn had to witness each other suffer abuse. They caused themselves pain because they copied the actions that were inflicted upon them. The father was a harmful influence on the family, and no one could make progress with him around. When he passed away, their mother immediately turned her life around for the best of her children.

We consistently made sure that all the children were receiving the necessary medical treatment they needed. In an effort to connect with each of the children, we attended all extracurricular activities and worked to connect with extended family. We fostered their interests and took an active role in their educational development. It was important to us that they had consistency in their lives and could begin to understand what it meant to have someone to depend upon.

Due in part to our advocacy and the tremendous determination by their mother, all of these amazing children were reunited with her and are now living in a nurturing, caring and safe home.

We were there for Oscar, Michael, Felipe, Jazmyn, and Jerilyn.

We reached out to them, and we made a difference in their lives.

We are Emlyn and Penny Jeffrey, and we have been child Advocates for ten years.

Photos by Mari Hernandez

Our Stories

Our Stories

Our Stories

Help reach every child. Children like Lenora, Sierra, and Alexis.

These three young girls, ranging in age from seven to ten years old, were removed from the home they shared with their father and his girlfriend due to drug use and ongoing domestic violence.

Immediately, I began researching the family’s history, identifying and meeting all the key players, and assessing how the girls were doing. I determined the pressing concerns, including that they had missed over 45 days of school while with their father.

It was evident there was need for assessment. I requested that an ARD meeting be set for Lenora, whose grades and academic progress were suffering the most. I met with the school principal, the special education expert from CPS, and a local ad litem who assists families in this area. I also empowered the grandmother by guiding her through the process and encouraging her to speak up for her granddaughters.

Lenora was ultimately qualified for special education services. This had a direct impact on her self-esteem, and she is now experiencing greater academic success.

As an Advocate, I’ve tried to be a positive role model for this family. I provide guidance and support to the grandmother so she can be more successful in raising her granddaughters; and, in part because of this, they finally have a loving and permanent home.

I was there for Lenora, Sierra, and Alexis. I made a difference in their lives.

My name is Carol Eisenhart, and I have been a child Advocate for two years.

Photos by Philip Thomas

Our Stories

Help reach every child. Children like Gia, Gavin, and Bryce.

Gia, Gavin, and Bryce were removed from their home because of neglect inflicted upon them by their parents. Placed with their maternal grandparents, the children began working through the issues that remained with them as a result of the emotional trauma they had endured.

As the children’s Advocate, I made sure that I was there for every single doctor’s appointment, court appearance, visitation, and school meeting. I attended therapy sessions and visited them weekly. Each time, these three gained confidence in me and my ability to provide constancy. They enjoyed our time together, and I considered myself privileged to play such an important role in their ongoing development.

During progression of the case, it was discovered that the children’s mother had passed away. When their father was later released from prison, he realized the children were thriving in the home with their grandparents. As a result, he relinquished his rights.

Gia, Gavin, and Bryce were adopted by their grandparents, and they still get to see their father often, which brings them hope and happiness. I still keep in touch with the children, and they treat me like family. This was truly the best experience I could have ever imagined. I am so grateful for my role as an Advocate.

I was there for Gia, Gavin, and Bryce. I was always there for them, and I made a difference in their lives.

My name is Anysha Ticer, and I have been a child Advocate for one year.

Photos by Greg Martinez

Our Stories