THE PERSON BEHIND THE BADGE: MARCUS BRITTON-DAVIS
Our Person Behind the Badge this month is CASA Marcus Britton-Davis, a West Texas native, who found his way (and his roots) to Central Texas. Marcus’ love affair with Central Texas began during high school through his participation in journalism competitions in Austin. He recalls falling in love with the trees, the rainy afternoons and the nice evenings. After winning the Journalism State Competition, he took the scholarship he earned and found himself wanting to get back to those trees, the rain and the nice evenings and signed up to continue his education at the University of Texas, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Little did he know at that time, that he was setting himself up to be a CASA as he majored in psychology and minored in childhood development. While he was attending UT, he was a part-time student employee at the Learning Center. Upon graduation, he was offered a newly created full time position (just for him) and stayed for 18 years. It may be safe to say that this is where his “helping” nature may have gotten its start.
After leaving UT as their IT Manager, Marcus found his way to Red Rock and took a job with Red Rock Elementary School, teaching computers to kindergarteners to 4th graders. With a big smile on his face, he says that it was the funnest time of his life … and the most challenging. He states when they entered kindergarten, some students didn’t know their numbers or letters, but by Thanksgiving they were able to log on with their student ID and password. He confesses that while he was accustomed to working with college kids, it was a bit of a shock and adjustment working with little kids who could not even log on. One method he used was giving them paper and crayons and having them draw the computer parts to initially learn and understand the vocabulary that was needed to be able to teach them computers. Marcus retired from teaching in 2017, but to this day, his legacy to his profession follows him. As recent as two months ago, when one of his students learned of his work with CASA, she took it upon herself to help and give back by putting together “goodie bags with personal notes” for CASAs to share with their CASA children. It was not the first time that he has received support from former students (and their parents) to do his CASA work. The boy in his current case loves Legos, so Marcus put out the call on Facebook for Legos that weren’t being used. Former students provided not only the toys, but also a case to organize.
During Marcus’ time at UT, he did drop out of school for three years and took a job in hotel management in Dallas – an offer at the time, he could not resist. It was during this time that he met his husband, Doug. With a nod to their future together, they returned to Austin so Marcus could finish school. Because they knew they wanted children, they developed a ten-year plan which included saving money, building a home and going to China to adopt. The story is told that as the builder was pouring the foundation of their new home they decided to go on a “last hurrah” cruise. It was upon their return that they became aware that China’s government had announced that anyone seeking to adopt had to first swear they were heterosexual. Well, this stand up couple decided that in no way were they going to start a family with a lie. But, as fate has it, two weeks later, a friend of a friend contacted them with news of a baby that was up for adoption.
After meeting with the pregnant birth mother, who already had one baby and felt unable to care for two, she agreed to Marcus and Doug adopting baby Hope.
After Hope was in her new home a year, CPS got involved in this mother’s life. As it was the state’s mission to place a child with the nearest viable relative, Kacie was placed with her biological half-sister, Hope, and the family of three became the family of four. The picture chosen shows Marcus and his family (left to right: Doug, Kacie, Hope and Marcus) during a Disney family vacation wearing tee-shirts from the Journalism team at his old school. We can’t get a better picture than that to sum up what’s important to this CASA Advocate!
After retirement, Marcus was looking to find something to keep him busy. The answer came to him in the form of a CASA commercial at the Bastrop movie theatre (we are so happy he is a movie buff!). Marcus signed up for training and in January 2018 was sworn in as a CASA. Marcus has had two cases to date and is currently still working his first case.
Marcus admits that his personal experience provided him a glimpse into Child Protective Services and vividly remembers how confused his CPS-placed girl was. “It just stays with you,” he says. So being able to help some child get through that – being able to be that person they can count on, the one who sticks with them no matter how many caseworkers, placements and attorneys come in and out of their lives is, in part, how he sees his role as a CASA. Marcus is currently advocating for a teenage boy placed in a group home. He recalls that when they first met at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), his CASA child was shy and unsure and Marcus had a difficult time trying to get him to just have a conversation. But the more time Marcus spent with him, rapport and trust was built and now this young man reaches out to Marcus for advice and support! Many times, the fact that our CASAs consistently show up for their CASA children makes all the difference in the world. Especially, when they learn that our CASAs are Volunteers and don’t get paid to do this work!
Alicia Elam, CASA Coach-Supervisor was ecstatic when Marcus accepted this case. She states, “As a new advocate, Mr. Marcus agreed to take on one of most difficult cases in our CASA program’s history and he has handled it with the utmost professionalism and compassion. The child appointed to Marcus is not the same child as before Marcus became his Advocate. This child used to be very withdrawn, afraid to trust adults and not open about his issues. Thanks to Mr. Marcus’ dedication and commitment, by attending therapy sessions, family visits, school meetings and working though the child’s issues weekly with the program staff, the child graduated the Youth Program and was successfully discharged. Marcus went above and beyond by visiting the child more than required in order to continue building the great rapport he still has with the child today. Marcus has been the one constant in this child’s life. It has been amazing to witness the transition. Even though the child has been placed further away, it hasn’t stopped Marcus from being there when the child needs him. Marcus is well-liked and respected by the families and parties of the case. He has gained their trust by looking out for the best interest of the child.”
Marcus shares that even if the case becomes difficult or challenging, he still enjoys it, saying that the case doesn’t have to be perfect – after all, it’s not a perfect world. Even though his CASA child is now placed 2.5 hours away, there is no way he would disrupt what he has already established with his CASA child because of distance. He would have thought that it was not possible to chunk out a huge amount of time to fulfill his advocacy responsibilities, but it can and has been done. And while he is visiting, sometimes they are able to make time to catch an afternoon matinee, especially if it is a superhero or action movie, a shared common interest!
CASA Coach-Supervisor, Alicia Elam, sees Marcus as the epitome of what it takes to be a CASA Advocate. She explains, “Not only does he bring expertise from the classroom environment, but he also lived through some of the obstacles our foster children face by being a loving, adoptive parent himself. He is very organized and giving of his time and resources. Marcus has taught me a lot about what it takes to be a great CASA! I can’t imagine Mr. Marcus not being with CASA for many years to come; he has made a huge difference on both cases he has served.” And, we must confess . . . it doesn’t hurt to have an honorary CASA IT Guy around!