THE PERSON BEHIND THE BADGE: KATHY WORLEY
Kathy Worley is a self-professed farm girl who grew up on her parents’ farm in Levelland, Texas outside of Lubbock. Her dad farmed, her mother was a stay-at-home mom and did many things to support her family until she went back to school in her 40’s and became a teacher. Kathy was an only child until her parents took in her maternal aunt’s twin girls when they were twelve years old. Kathy states that this turn of events gave her the experience of having foster siblings – an experience that has proved to serve her well in her role as a CASA Volunteer.
Kathy attended Levelland’s Junior College and continued on with her education at Texas Tech where she received her Bachelor’s Degree and elementary teaching certification. Kathy had her first child, Christine, just as she was completing her Bachelor’s degree; but, as it was back in the day, you could not start teaching if you were pregnant. Needless to say, Kathy didn’t put her education to use until after her daughter was born. She taught kindergarten, first and second grade. She says jokingly, “never taught above that …. I couldn’t do the math!”
When her husband got transferred to Amarillo for work, Kathy went back and got her Masters in Guidance & Counseling from Texas Tech and became a certified Elementary Guidance Counselor. She states that this was also similar to being a social worker in that you teach social and life skills classes for parents, facilitate small groups, and provide individual counseling. She spent a good amount of time working with the parents involved in CPS referrals and developing working relationships with CPS caseworkers. Many times, CPS requested Kathy to be present at the initial interview. This was just another life experience that has served her in her role as a CASA Volunteer.
After teaching in Lubbock, Kathy took off ten years to stay at home to raise her son, Duke, help her husband with his business, and volunteer. Although she was blessed to be a stay-at- home mom, she also knew that she needed to get back to working with children. This all coincided with the financial downturn in the 1980’s, so she returned to teaching in Katy ISD and got back to her passion of working with children.
As luck would have it, there was a position open at a new school for a Guidance Counselor that had Kathy’s name written all over it! She ended up being there for six years during a time that the counselors had more of a say in the child’s educational development. Kathy believes children blossom at different times and found herself advocating against retaining children by identifying programs and extra help that could benefit the children instead. Hmmm, are we beginning to see a pattern here?
Kathy became increasingly disenchanted with the trend that began to take place in the schools with testing that resulted in her role becoming less and less about working and helping the children, and more about administering tests. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Kathy moved her to Burnet to an assisted living facility so they would be near each other. After her mother fell and broke her hip, she was unable to be cared for in the Burnet facility. Kathy brought her home, but it became apparent her mother would need round-the-clock care. Kathy’s daughter and only granddaughter live in Bastrop and there was a nursing home in Bastrop that would be able to care for her mother, so she relocated to Bastrop. Her mother passed away five months after and Kathy began her search for a home to call her own.
That search took two years, but she finally found her pride and joy. A historical cottage in downtown Bastrop, whose claim to fame is that it was the first house in Bastrop County to be owned by an African American woman. Kathy lives there with her Willie, a once dirty, starving kitten who followed her home one day on her walk and never left. Although a dog lover, she said she guesses the old saying is true, that, “it only takes one cat to make a crazy cat lady.” Since Willie loves the outdoors, she often takes him on stroller walks around town. Kathy is involved in her church, Calvary Episcopal, enjoys going to dinner and community theatre to watch her granddaughter perform, volunteers, and also is an avid reader. She is very proud of her granddaughter, who was adopted at birth, was homeschooled, and now at 16 years old is in her second year of college!
Kathy heard about CASA through her life-long friend, Cynthia, who she met while living in Lubbock. Cynthia was Kathy’s student teacher and after she retired, became a CASA Volunteer in Lubbock. When Kathy’s mom passed, she began looking for volunteer opportunities and thought about mentoring at the boy’s juvenile facility in Giddings. But Cynthia knew better and believed the CASA Volunteer position would be a perfect fit for Kathy. After talking to Cynthia about her CASA experience, Kathy called our Executive Director and was sworn-in as a CASA in December of 2015.
Kathy’s most meaningful experience as a CASA was her first case that initially was very discouraging to her as the three siblings were separated after removal and placed in three different placements, nearly eight hours away from Bastrop. But even though the requirement for visits was only once every six months, there were times during the case Kathy believed it was important to see them, so she visited them monthly. She augmented these visits with phone calls, but confessed sometimes it’s hard to talk to pre-teens on the phone. She became concerned that they would never find a forever home.
During this time, she had volunteered to teach a parenting class at her church. A couple who joined the class had relayed that they had just finished the class CPS wanted them to take, but they wanted to learn more. They also shared they wanted to adopt older children, and to have a family group. Kathy wondered if this could be divine intervention. Long story short, this couple ended up adopting two of the three children and has remained in the life of the third. Kathy states that this experience restored her faith in the system.
Kathy believes that her training in counseling has prepared her for dealing with the range of emotions felt during case work. She also dedicates each morning to meditation and journaling. She also enjoys CASA’s Lunch Bunch events that allows fellow CASAs to share what is going on in other cases, get new ideas, feedback, and lessons learned. Kathy recommends CASAs buddying up with others in order to talk “conscious free” about the case work they’re doing.
Kathy is all about the children. She has demonstrated that through her life work and the work she does with CASA. She is the happiest when she is doing something related to kids. In fact, her daughter has nicknamed her the “kid whisperer.” Being part of a small family that has grown through fostering and adoption, all her years as a counselor, and seeing all sides of Child Protective Services, has helped make her an exceptional CASA Volunteer.
Crystal Justice, Kathy’s Advocate Supervisor, seconds that stating, “Kathy is a very dedicated advocate. She will go above and beyond to advocate for her CASA kiddos. She has had children placed all over Texas, and she followed them wherever they’ve gone. Being a retired school counselor, she understands the mental health issues that the CASA kiddos may have from their past traumas and the different techniques that can help them. She also has a good understanding of behavior issues and why these children are experiencing them. She understands how important it is to build trust and a good rapport with her CASA children and she has done that more than once. If she promises a child that she is going to call them or come see them, she keeps her promise no matter the distance or obstacle in the way. Kathy knows that the children have been disappointed too many times in their lives and they need someone they can trust. This helps the children open up to her more as they know that she will be there no matter what. Kathy is very passionate about CASA and it shows through her relationship with the children.”