THE PERSON BEHIND THE BADGE: DONNA TOMLIN
Donna Tomlin made her way from Houston to Bastrop after retiring from 35 years or so in the natural gas industry where she spent her career negotiating contracts for the purchase of natural gas. In considering her relocation from Houston to central Texas, she was looking for a place that she could find community, and fortunately for us, she found it in Bastrop. In fact, in March, she will be celebrating 10 years here in our fine community.
With a degree in elementary education, and a short period of time working with special needs children after she graduated, Donna always had a heart for children and knew eventually she wanted to get back to working with children, but was just unclear as to how.
So, she did what most do in retirement, she started volunteering. She did some volunteer work while living in Houston and working on some grad work in psychology. Working with CPS Family Counseling for a while, provided her with a real world view of sexual and physical abuse. So it comes as no surprise that her initial volunteer work in Bastrop was with the Children’s Advocacy Center on an as-needed basis, sitting with and comforting families whose children where at the Center making outcries of abuse. It was during this time with the CAC, she attended a sponsored seminar and she was sitting next to (in her words) “a lovely lady who happened to be a CASA Board Member and Volunteer,” our current Mayor, Connie Schroeder. In talking with her, Donna realized that the CASA Volunteer position was more hands-on and presented an opportunity to really help our community’s children in need, a community that she has grown to love and embrace. It was exactly what she wanted. So much so, she has been a CASA Volunteer for six and a half years.
In the years Donna has been a CASA Volunteer, her advocacy has taken her in many directions because of the variety of cases with which she has been involved. Some cases have involved infants; in which she has played more of a supportive role to the foster parents while making sure the children are safe and their basic needs are being met. And in others, she has supported children that have not been diagnosed properly and has needed to advocate for their medical and therapeutic needs.
Alicia Elam, CASA Volunteer Supervisor, states that “Donna is assigned to one of CASA’s most severe sexual abuse cases that we have ever seen, and praises her on her ability to be that consistent voice that always puts the best interests of her CASA child first.” She further comments that Donna has proven her commitment to her CASA children by staying with the case until they reunify with their parents or find a permanent, safe and stable home. In fact, Donna does many things that show her commitment and dedication to her CASA children by going above and beyond. When speaking about a recent case, Donna tells of a child who has had a bad childhood and who has been in and out of several Residential Treatment Centers, but recently adopted by a woman who is accepting of her child’s emotional problems and committed to working through them. Although her CASA child is in an out-of-state, adoptive home, Donna continues to lend support and assistance by sharing her knowledge and understanding gained from her recent CASA training on Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), training designed for children who have come from hard places. Donna stated the TBRI training “fit to a tea and has been very helpful in handling her CASA child’s emotional conditions.” Tina Smith, CASA Volunteer Supervisor, speaks to Donna’s, “hard work and diligence that she put forth for her CASA child in this particular case,” and spoke of another training Donna attended where she learned about the importance of kids knowing and understanding where they came from. Donna decided she wanted to get together a “family album” for her CASA child. Donna carried this project through completion and her CASA child moved into her adoptive home with her family album knowing where she came from, thanks to her CASA Volunteer’s understanding and commitment of doing what is in her CASA child’s best interests.
Donna appreciates Bastrop County’s commitment to our CASA program’s mission to provide a CASA Volunteer for each child in the foster care system. She states that having a CASA Volunteer provides continuity. She warmly speaks of that feeling when “you can see it in their eyes, that they know you’re still there and that somebody really, really does care.”
When Donna is not working cases for CASA, you can find this cat lover supporting and working with Bastrop Cats Anonymous TNR Society. With her daughter nearby in Austin and a lot of friends that enjoy taking road trips together and participating in local events supporting Bastrop, it’s surprising this busy lady has the time to do it all. But, you know what they say, “if you want something done, ask a busy person!” CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties is glad we did!