Number of years as a CASA: 1
Number of years in the community: 16
Dr. Mark Taplette is a caring and kind man who volunteers as both a CASA and as a law changer on VFC’s Legal Advocacy Team. Mark moved to College Station sixteen years ago to work for Texas A&M. Fun story: He was actually in the middle of his interview to become the Texas A&M Director of Residence Life when he got a call that his wife was giving birth to their youngest child! (Nothing will make your interview stand out among others quite like the miracle of life). Mark retired out of the Texas A&M system ten years ago but found that “he didn’t want to be retired”. Eager to stay busy, Mark began working for the City of Bryan’s Water Services Department, where he is currently employed.
A Family Man
Mark is very passionate about family and being involved in his family members’ lives. He and his wife have six children (one still at home and five in college/graduated). He states that he and his wife are primarily driven by their goal of raising good kids. “None of them are in jail, so hopefully, we’ve done a good job” he jokes.
Skills Needed to Be a Voice for CASA:
- A Calling- As a CASA, you are not compensated or visibly benefited. You are often dedicating time and money to visiting your children, and if you don’t have the calling to do this, you’ll be dismayed when you learn that you aren’t reimbursed. This is not just something you do if you have a lot of time on your hands; your heart has to be for the cause.
- Ability to Work with Difficult People- Situations and people will push your buttons and you will have to remain unbiased. For example, you may have to work with the parents who have abused the child in the case, but you must remain focused on why you are there- to help the child. (Disclaimer: CASAs do have the option to not take cases on if they feel too uncomfortable with the situation though.)
Why he chose to volunteer:
After seeing a CASA commercial in which a child was tugging on the shoulder of an adult asking, “Will you be a voice for me?” Mark felt a slight stirring in his heart. He came to the office to learn more information and was invited to training. He went through training and fell in love with the program. Being able to help a child in need is what consistently drives him.
Being able to speak up for the children is a really good opportunity to make sure that they have the best voice speaking for them. I love being the outside voice that is solely in court to advocate for the child
The Most Rewarding Part about Being a CASA:
One of Mark’s greatest joys is having the opportunity to actually impact children’s lives and being able to see how the children have connected with him and how that connection grows as the case progresses.
Advice for anyone considering becoming a CASA:
“Go through training first, then make a decision. Training gives a good overview of what you will really be doing, and it lets you feel out if being a CASA is really for you. Also, make sure that you have time to commit to volunteering.”
What would he change about the legal process if he could?
Mark is a part of CASA’s Legislative Advocacy Team which shapes policies to improve the child welfare system. Specifically, he participates on the Advocacy Committee. He states that he enjoys being an advocate not only for specific children but for the entire foster-care system.
According to Mark, he chose to join the team because he was frustrated with the fact that lawmakers often have no idea what is really going on in the foster-care system. They need individuals to reveal to them what gaps are in current policies. For example, policies currently state that foster care kids cannot get their drivers licenses until they are eighteen. Because of this, many kids are leaving the system with no work experience or trade skills. This issue is something that individuals, like Mark, can advocate for through policy change.
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