THE PERSON BEHIND THE BADGE: JANET SHOOK
Janet Shook was born in a farming community of Crowell, Texas, north of Dallas. You wouldn’t know she was an only child as she went to school with 18 of her first cousins! Education was in her blood. In fact, to this day, she has family members who are on the Crowell School Board.
Janet attended Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and began her career as an educator with Wichita Falls ISD. Stan, her high school sweetheart, whom she married, got a job with the State. She speaks of teaching for 15 years at Wichita Falls Fowler Elementary during a time when there was no air conditioning, water or bathroom in the classroom and being solely responsible for thirty-one kindergarteners in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. She chuckles at the memories of birds flying into her classroom because of the lack of screens on the windows and being in that building longer than any other teacher. Another fun fact is that during her career, she taught two generations.
After 32 years of teaching kindergarten, Janet retired in 2005. In 2006, Janet and Stan moved to Bastrop to be closer to their daughter who lives and works in Austin as a personal trainer. But, like many teachers who retire, she wasn’t quite ready to stop working completely with children, so she started substituting. And one day in 2007, her nail tech, who also was a CPS Caseworker, told her about CASA. Janet was familiar with CPS and foster care because she had kids in her classroom that were in foster care. But she was not familiar with CASA and doesn’t ever remember a CASA Volunteer visiting her classroom. So, she did her due diligence and signed up for the CASA Volunteer training class of “1”. And CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties is so glad she did!
Janet reflects on many meaningful experiences involving her volunteer work with CASA, but one case stands out – two little girls, 9 and 22 months, 7 foster homes, some together and some split up. As a CASA Volunteer, Janet attended doctor and therapists visits, did visits in placements, visits in schools, and watched caseworkers come and go. It wasn’t until the next-to-last placement when the older child finished kindergarten, that Janet was asked to go to an ARD and she sat there realizing no one really knew this child. No one but Janet, her CASA Volunteer. She was that one constant person in this child’s life during this traumatic time. Finally, an adoptive family was found – mommy and mama. A perfect home and parents who only had their daughters’ best interests at heart. What impressed this CASA Volunteer was that even though these new parents did not attend church, they placed their daughters in a Christian daycare. They took one week off together and one week separately to transition into their new life with their daughters. It all came together for Janet, when during the closed adoption, the Judge requested those involved in the case to stand up and identify their role in the case. Janet, being the last to speak was personally thanked by the Judge for “staying with the case”. You see, Janet was the only one in that Circle of Justice, who knew their story, their whole story. Janet received the case when the youngest was 9 months old. At the time of adoption, she was 4 years old. Thanks to Janet’s heart and commitment, these precious children did not get lost in the system. As with many of our CASA Volunteers, Janet is of the belief that it’s best not to stay in contact with the children she serves after the case is closed, feeling she “is their past” and their reunification with parents or with a new family “are their future.” Even though she is not involved in their day-to-day lives, she does still hear from many of the CASA children and families that she has served through cards and letters.
Alicia Elam, CASA Volunteer Supervisor says of Janet, “As a retired teacher, Janet understands the importance of educational advocacy as she brings a lot of experience to the table. She attends all ARD meetings, conferences and events. She makes contact with staff and establishes rapport with school personnel. Because she’s been with CASA so long, she has great relationships with all families and parties in her cases. Janet is always willing to go above and beyond and has demonstrated that time and time again. For example, on a past case, Janet and her husband moved a family into their new home so the children had a safe place to live.
Janet is a very dedicated volunteer. She doesn’t miss any CASA event; she attends trainings and participates in fundraisers. Not only does Janet do fierce advocacy for the children she’s appointed to serve, she also contributes in many different ways to our organization. Throughout her 10 years with us, Janet has even recruited volunteers and gotten sponsors to adopt families during the holidays.”
CASA Volunteer Recruiter and Trainer, Rita Floyd is quick to speak highly of Janet’s commitment to our CASA program too. Back in 2009, Janet formed the 2nd Lunch Bunch in The Colony, where she and Stan live. Because of Janet’s passion, sharing and advocating for all of the CASA children we serve, Janet has organized many years of Christmas gift drives within The Colony for our CASA children. In recent years, the good people of The Colony have provided over 200 wrapped and labeled gifts and gift cards during the holiday season under Janet’s leadership.
Alicia Elam sums it up well. “Janet is the most tenured volunteer at our CASA program, with over ten years of fierce advocacy. The compassion she shows to our program and the children we are appointed is an inspiration to us all.”