Imagine a 15-year-old girl who has lived in 29 foster homes in the last 10 years. Now imagine this same girl who will “age out” of the foster care system in a few short years and have to face society and her life with no safety net. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario in Tarrant County. Fortunately, there are people like DD Holmes who step up and provide that safety net.
“Think about these kids for a minute,” said Holmes, who has served since 2011 as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children and youth living in Tarrant County foster homes. “They often don’t have pictures; they haven’t slept in the same bed for 6 months; they don’t know where their friends and family are; they don’t know where they’re going tomorrow. Their lives are so chaotic that it’s very difficult for them to set goals. Think about where our lives would be without memories.”
For 25 years, Holmes used her Ph.D. from Texas Tech to provide accounting and information technology services at Thomson Reuters. When she retired five years ago, her desire to help at-risk youth led her to CASA of Tarrant County.
In honor of the work she has done and the lives she has influenced, Holmes was honored on April 24 at the annual Judge Scott Moore Awards dinner at the Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth as CASA of Tarrant County’s Monika Dewar Advocate of the Year.
“Obviously, there are many deserving advocates and many I have to thank for their help,” Holmes said.
“This honor is humbling. I’ve watched the underserved community for many years, and because of my teaching background at a college level, I knew I wanted to work with teenagers as a mentor or teacher. My goal is to take the teenagers I work with and not only help them get through a rough time, but help them get into college. This is life-changing for kids who come from less-than-desirable circumstances.”
“DD’s commitment and dedication to the children she serves is what makes her such an extraordinary CASA Advocate,” says Kara Stephens, Casework Supervisor/DRG Grant Supervisor. “She is quick to identify the child’s needs and makes sure they are addressed. She is always willing to go the extra mile for their best interest.”
Lynne Burns, Casework Supervisor-Transitional Youth Specialist, says she wants to clone Holmes. “She is the perfect combination of professionalism, common sense and compassion,” Burns said. “When DD takes a case, I know that she will go above and beyond the minimum expectations set out for her. She will be creative in finding ways to make good things happen for her ‘kids.’ In the process, she will become a friend to the families who foster these children and will earn not only their respect, but the respect of the caseworkers, attorneys and judges with whom she comes in contact.”
Each day over 300 volunteer Advocates, under the supervision of CASA of Tarrant County, are in courtrooms, foster homes, classrooms, and day care centers speaking up for children and youth in foster care and supporting their best interest. CASA of Tarrant County is a volunteer-driven organization serving victims of child abuse and neglect since 1983. It is the only organization in the county providing this service and has automatic court appointment to all Child Protective Services cases.
“As I think about this three-year road with CASA, I get very emotional,” Holmes said. “It’s been a learning journey for me, and I’ve learned more about social justice in the last three years than I’ve learned in all the years in my office in downtown Fort Worth. My heart looks forward to the day when we as a society understand how to help kids live their full potential. Fort Worth is great in that we have a lot of organizations working together trying to solve problems, whether it’s poverty, neglect, or abuse, but we still have a long way to go. We have more work to do.
“Unfortunately, too many Tarrant County children are abused and neglected; about 5,700 cases of child abuse were reported last year, with 14 child abuse fatalities,” Holmes continued. “We must act with more urgency. As hard as the work is, we know it is all worth it to save the life of one child.”
For information about becoming a CASA volunteer, please visit speakupforachild.org.