I will be retiring from CASA Child Advocates effective February 1. I believe the Board has selected exactly the right person to carry on this important work—it will be Ann Marie Ronsman, who has been our Training Director for the last 3 years.
About Ann Marie
Those of you who know Ann Marie know her passion for our work. You know that she was one of our first TBRI Practitioners (an important certification to indicate significant training working with children who have suffered trauma, as all children in care have.) You may know that she has extended our relationships significantly in the community, innovating in training for judges and attorneys, and in relationships within the Conroe ISD.
What you may not know is that she has 3 years of experience as the director for the cancer unit of a hospital. Ann Marie is one of those rare people who is both visionary and able to get things done. I am completely confident that she will not only carry on our work at CASA, but will take the organization forward in ways that we have not yet imagined.
I have loved my work at CASA, and I’m more proud of my accomplishments here than at any other time in my career life. Most of all, I have loved working with you. The very best part of my work is that I work with the most big-hearted, generous people in the world. You. It has been an immense privilege and joy for me to work with you, and I look forward to us remaining as friends.
But why now?
I’ve been in several meetings in the last few months—meetings with donors, community partners, staff—when I looked around at the work being done, the quality of the dialog, the high level of thinking, and thought “they don’t need me anymore.” This is a great thing—it is high praise for the organization, for where we have come with the help of every one of you—our volunteers and donors and community partners.
The staff is functioning well. We have successors in place for the key positions—successors who are well-prepared to move up, to take on additional responsibilities.
It has been about 10 years since I became the Executive Director of CASA (and I was a volunteer Advocate for a couple of years before that.)
Here are some of the things we have accomplished together.
- At that time, we were unable to count what percentage of the children in foster care in Montgomery County that we were serving. In retrospect, after putting in place new methods of counting, it was about 65%. Since 2015, we have been serving 100% of the children in care in our county. This puts us in an elite handful of programs in the state, and in the country, who are able to do this!
- The staff had no responsibility for fundraising. All fundraising was done by a dedicated team of volunteers, and was essentially a parallel organization to the CASA program staff. Today the staff has key co-responsibility with the board in fundraising efforts, with an expertise and sophistication unimaginable at the time. That said, I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who took part in CHAMPS, who planned the original galas, and made decorations in your garage, and invented “Fund a Child”, arm-twisted your neighbors into helping and attending, and wrote hundreds of thank you notes. We would absolutely not be here without you innovators and pioneers of fundraising!
- The board was typical of a small nonprofit, performing significant, hands-on functions in the program and in fundraising. Today, we have a board that is a model of governance and strategic thinking—a board that models best practices of a high-functioning (even much larger) nonprofit.
- We have metrics in place in all key areas of the organization.
- We are one of a handful of nonprofits that has performance objectives, with the possibility of performance bonuses, for all positions.
- We had 6 program staff — Case Supervisors and a Program Director who was also a half-time Case Supervisor. For most, our only real requirement (and not an easy one!) was having been a good CASA Advocate. They definitely got the job done! Today, we have a program staff of 10 Case Supervisors, 2 Advocacy Managers who constantly work on increasing the quality of our Advocacy, and a full-time Program Director (no case-load), who is able to focus on the quality of our program as a whole, including developing and maintaining all-important community relationships.
- We have been able to add a significant level of focus to increasing the quality of the advocacy we do, adding programs such as Trust Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI (working to counter the effects of trauma), finding additional family members to support the children, and working to increase the odds that youth aging out of care are more prepared to face life as adults.
I am very, very proud of the work we’ve done together—me, the staff, amazing volunteers, donors, sponsors, community partners, and the board. CASA is well-primed to continue moving forward. And I am completely convinced that with Ann Marie at the helm, working together with our board and world-class volunteers, CASA will continue to accomplish more than we have imagined possible.
With deep gratitude
Ann McAlpin, Executive Director
CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County