Donna Brunet | Executive Director, CASA of Terrebonne, Inc.
Tell me about your work:
Terrebonne’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program was created to assist children who are subject to court proceedings due to abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. CASAs are trained volunteers who are appointed by a judge to provide one-on-one advocacy for a child who is under the jurisdiction of the court. The CASA is responsible for conducting an independent investigation, helping the court understand the needs of the child, ensuring that court-ordered services are being provided and making child-focused recommendations to the court based on the best interest of the child.
CASA of Terrebonne has accomplished a great deal since its inception 20 years ago. The CASA program has given a voice to hundreds of children in the dependency court system. CASA of Terrebonne has trained hundreds of volunteers to advocate on behalf of children experiencing an intensely confusing and frightening time in their lives within a system that may be impersonal, slow and lacking the financial support needed to provide adequate care. CASA of Terrebonne’s goal is to raise awareness within the dependency system and the community of children’s unique needs, especially their need for services aimed at helping them live the healthiest life possible.
What is the best part of your job?
One great aspect of my job is meeting with the volunteers and hearing their stories about their “CASA kids”, especially when the story involves a good outcome like a reunification or adoption. Another great part of the job is getting to travel around the country to attend conferences and trainings where I get to meet CASA’s from all across the US and learn how they do things differently/better than we do. Any learning opportunity is a plus for me.
What is the hardest?
The hardest part is reading the 72-hour hearings which explain why the children were taken from their homes and put into state’s custody. The stories are all heartbreaking.
Also, having to continually find sources of income to keep CASA up and running. None of the funds we receive are guaranteed. We have to apply for funding and grants every year and hope that we get them. That is why community donors are so important to CASA.
Why should someone support CASA’s efforts?
The work that our CASA volunteers do for the children in foster care is invaluable. These children are ripped from their homes, usually placed with a stranger, possibly moved several more times and put with more strangers. Their CASA volunteer is the one true constant in their ever-changing lives. Studies have shown that children who have a CASA spend on average 7.5 months less time in foster care than those who don’t; they are more likely to graduate from high school on time; more than 90% never reenter the foster care system; and complex cases receive more attention so they can move forward in a timely way. CASA volunteers save hundreds of millions of dollars in child welfare costs alone each year.
Society as a whole is impacted by our advocacy. Helping ensure that a child in foster care receives the consistent presence and resources needed to thrive will increase the chance that the child will become a productive member of society as an adult.
When you support CASA you help change a child’s life for the better.
What’s one leadership skill you feel everyone must learn?
How to delegate authority. It’s hard to let someone else take on a task that you believe you could do better. I think some people look at it as a sign of weakness, when in fact it is the sign of a strong leader who trusts his/her employees implicitly. When you delegate tasks this leaves you more time to focus on the tasks that cannot be delegated due to security/confidential reasons.
Tell me about yourself:
As a child, what did you see yourself doing as a career?
As a child I wanted to be either an actress or a veterinarian.
What was your very first job?
Lifeguard at Bayou Bien Country Club when I was 15.
What time to do you wake up and how do you start your day?
During the week I’m up by 7:00 am and out the door by 7:45. I usually get to work about 8:15, I’ll read and respond to all my emails, have breakfast at my desk and then continue the work day. However, on Saturday and Sunday, I’ll stay in bed until 9 or 10.
What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?
I couldn’t live without three things: My family, books and my dogs (in that order of course!)
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Reading, traveling, spending time with family and fishing/boating (whenever I can get my husband to take me)
Favorites/This or that:
Liver and creamed potatoes
Favorite vacation spot?
Any beach, especially those along 30A in Florida
How do you take your coffee?
Don’t drink coffee
Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Chocolate, specifically Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Pen or pencil? Blue Pen
Early bird or night owl?
Definitely a night owl •