Current CASA Board Chair, James Pung, SHARES HIS OWN THOUGHTS ON the importance of providing ADVOCATEs FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
This month, we invite you to meet the current CASA Board Chair, James Pung. James has been involved with CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County since 2012 in a variety of roles, including as a volunteer Advocate (with his wife, Angela), as a member of the CASA Advisory Council and Development Committee, as a CASA Superhero Run Steering Committee member, and finally, joining the CASA Board in 2015. Recently, he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us.
Can you share, in your own words, about what problem Advocates help to solve?
Advocates solve various challenges surrounding both the mental and physical impact of abuse and neglect of children, while also acting as a positive change agent for the legal system that is often overwhelmed and unable to provide the quality attention a volunteer Advocate can provide to ensure the best outcome for the child is reached in these cases. Advocates become a lifeline for these children and their families. Also, we tend to focus on how much we help the kids, but so many times, our Advocates are changing the lives of mom and dad as well who just need someone to cheer for them and give them hope and resources so that they can improve their parenting skills.
How did you first hear about CASA?
I was working for a company called TETRA Technologies who had always been a significant supporter of CASA in Montgomery County. At that time, the CASA Board Chair, Jim Funke, was a colleague and introduced me to this life-giving organization.
What attracted you to this cause?
I related to what many of these children have been through as I grew up in various homes where abuse and neglect was a “way of life” for myself and my siblings. I can relate to these kids and the personal impact these negative life influences had on me — often times feeling angry, hopeless, unloved, and lacking an advocate of any source, willing to fight for me and my future by loving me, providing me resources, and protecting me from those I couldn’t defend myself against.
With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support CASA?
While it’s not a driving decision factor for all, I think it’s important that as a community, we focus our attentions locally. Support local organizations that are impacting people that live down the street from us. I’ve always loved the fact that monies and volunteer efforts that are directed to CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County stay in my community. Donated funds don’t get pooled with a state or national organization where it gets distributed nationally. Knowing I’m directly impacting a child who might live down the street from me, who might be working locally in my company someday, who might be sitting next to me at church 10 years from now, who might be going to school with my kids…that’s the sort of positive impact I want to be a part of and where I want my monies, time, and talents to be focused towards. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the whole world for someone locally.
What have you learned about children in foster care?
I’d say the most impactful thing I’ve learned about these kids is the mental trauma this abuse and neglect causes and how that literally impacts the physical makeup of the brain through adulthood. The TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention) training we’ve introduced to CASA over the past several years has been eye-opening to me in better understanding how we can meet the complex needs of children who have experienced adversity, toxic stress, and/or trauma. This scientific research and developmental practices really helps you better understand the perplexing behaviors we often times see from kids in these negative environments, but with better understanding we’ve learned how to provide more effective tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children to help with achieving that child’s highest potential.
What was most surprising to you about the role of an Advocate?
When my wife and I were Advocates actively managing cases, we were surprised at how much support we had from the CASA Supervisor, the Judge, and the CPS case workers. Everyone really did work together for what was best for the kids and everyone really respected the role each of us played to ensure the outcome of each case was positive. I also would have never guessed how many times I would run into the families we got to know in the process while out in public and getting to hear the positive news about how well the kids that we advocated for were doing.
Is there an achievement or contribution of which you are most proud during your time on the Board, and if so, why?
My number one proudest accomplishment is the fact that this team transformed CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County over the past decade, ensuring we served every child that passed through our local court system with an Advocate. This is an accomplishment very few CASA programs around the state of Texas, or even across the nation, can say they’ve achieved year after year, and yet we’ve done that with amazing community support both with volunteer efforts and monies donated along with an amazing staff and Board to support that vision. We’ve not only been able to serve 100% of the kids, but we’ve also substantially improved the quality of the advocacy our Supervisors and Advocates provide with training around practices like TBRI and other programs.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a volunteer Advocate?
Honestly, advocacy isn’t for everyone as it really takes a level of emotional maturity and poise to be able to handle what you often times see, hear, and deal with. The reward though…of seeing parents transform, seeing kids grow and feel safe, seeing families reunited, seeing older kids develop life skills that they’ll never forget you helped provide…you can’t compare it to anything else. It’s life-changing both for you and for the children and families you support.
I think they should know that this is an organizational that isn’t reactive…that this is a team that is proactive in seeking ways to not just manage the issue of abuse and neglect towards kids, but eliminate it. I know this team believes that we can eliminate the cycle of abuse and neglect for future generations by addressing the real issues that cause it. I’m also proud of the work that’s being done and will be done over the coming years to further improve our child advocacy by being a resource for kids that age out of the system ensuring they have help for that next stage of life that no one has ever prepared them for. Montgomery County is a better place and will continue to be better place to live because of the work CASA is doing in the lives of our next generation of kids.
How has this changed you?
What I’ve learned over the years, particularly around topics of how abuse and neglect impacts kids into adulthood, has changed the empathy I have for so many. I recognize that what works for one person to be successful in life doesn’t work for others. There’s no cookie cutter way to improving people individually. I used to personally have an attitude of “if I can do it…so can you!” That approach doesn’t work. We have to care enough to tackle each person’s challenges individually with love, patience, care, and focus to ensure the best outcome. This has helped me as a business leader, as a father, and as a husband.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m just humbled to have gotten to be part of this CASA team for the past 8 years and look forward to seeing it continue to positively impact our community. We must become a community where abuse and neglect of children is no longer tolerated and we all stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. We must stand up for these kids and families, not to provide a handout, but to be a valuable resource so these kids and families can feel empowered to succeed and live happy, healthy, and productive lives.
— James E. Pung, Board Chair, CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County
EVERY CHILD DESERVES A CHANCE…IT’S YOU!
James E. Pung is the President / CEO of EnerCorp Engineered Solutions and is based in their USA headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas area. Prior to the merge of Energes, LLC and Dynacorp Energy Services which formed EnerCorp, Mr. Pung served as a the President / CEO of Energes, LLC since 2014. Mr. Pung also serves on the Board of Directors for a Woodlands, Texas-based environmental services organization, Sentry Energy Solutions. Previous to these roles, Mr. Pung served in various senior management positions for over 10 years for TETRA Technologies based in The Woodlands, Texas and Fort Worth, Texas. Over the past 19+ years, Mr. Pung has served in various management and technical support roles working in the energy, public utilities, and grocery retail sectors.
After moving to the North Houston area in 2010, Mr. Pung and his wife became actively involved in CASA of Montgomery County by becoming child Advocates, and Mr. Pung eventually began supporting the organization in other areas such as development committee leadership, advisory council, supporting the planning and execution of the CASA Superhero Run each year, and other various leadership roles, eventually joining the CASA Board in 2015. Mr. Pung has also served the community in various roles including Attendance Boundary Committee Member for Conroe ISD and staff advisor within their local church, The Ridge Community Church in The Woodlands. Mr. Pung and his wife Angela reside in Conroe and enjoy traveling, photography, cooking anything on their Big Green Egg, mountain hiking, local theater, and spending time with their three kids.