CASA leader overcame child abuse in England and now advocates for children in San Antonio | #childabuse | #children | #kids



Some of us have jobs and some of us have callings.

Angie White’s commitment to advocating for abused and neglected children is a calling, forged from her own traumatic childhood.

White, 53, is about to complete her first year as the president and CEO of Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA), an organization which recruits and trains volunteers to provide a wide range of support to children navigating their way through the foster-care system.

It’s a cause that’s deeply personal for White.

A native of the mountainous Lake District of North West England, White, at the age of nine months, was removed from her mother’s home due to abuse and neglect.

“My mom was 25 when she had me and she had two other children,” White said. “She had given her first child up into the system because she had her at 16. Then she kept the middle daughter because I think she was a child born in a marriage. She was single when I was born.

“I believe it was grandma, my mother’s mother, who reported (the abuse). But I don’t have any records.”

White was taken in at the age of 5 by foster parents, who adopted her when she was 7. While White effusively praises the efforts of foster and adoptive parents, she recalls that her own experience with her adoptive mother was difficult.

“They adopted a child to save their marriage,” White said. “When I was adopted, I was about 70 percent deaf. They thought I had special needs. And it was simply because the normal things that get looked after for a child — like eustachian tubes in your ears, sinus problems, tonsillitis — had never been taken care of. So they fixed all of that.

“My adoptive mother had the hero rationale. When it became apparent that I didn’t have special needs, it changed her outlook on the adoption, I think. So it wasn’t an easy upbringing.”

White left home at 18 and soon found herself volunteering for the Prince’s Trust charity in England. In her mid-twenties, she began doing volunteer work on behalf of abused women and children.

At the age of 22, White spoke, by phone, with her birth mother for the first time.

“That wasn’t very warm and welcoming,” she said.

A decade later, they finally met face to face.

White’s mother showed no contrition. Instead, she shifted blame to White’s grandmother for “telling people” about the abuse.

“You know you’re disconnected,” White said. “You have this whole thing all your life that your own mother doesn’t want you. Then when I met her, there was no connection. I could have sat next to her on a bus and never known.”

Up to that point, most of White’s experience had been in the for-profit business world.

Early on, that meant corporate management work in which she handled finance, tech implementation, manufacturing and international customer-service teams.

Later, it meant creating her own life-coaching business, which attracted a host of British corporate clients.

After meeting her birth mother, however, White’s priorities shifted.

“After that, it became more compelling for me to be involved,” she said. “I had already been on the board of the Together Trust, an agency that matches children that are available for adoption to prospective adoptive parents.

“But I think meeting her in person was definitely a push towards the idea that this is something I really want to make a difference in.”

In 2007, White’s husband’s work brought them to Houston, where White volunteered for CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County. They moved to San Antonio in 2012 and four years later she became the CEO of Alpha Home, a nonprofit which provides drug and alcohol treatment for women.

White took over the leadership of CASA last February, in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic that has inflicted extreme challenges on the cause of child advocacy.

Ideally, CASA would have at least 1,000 volunteers to serve as court-appointed advocates for children in this community. Currently, it has only 578 volunteers.

“People are concerned about being out in the community with the COVID that we’re seeing,” White said. “They are concerned about what’s going to happen to them next in their jobs. There’s a whole host of reasons why this is going on.

“What we need to do at CASA is be very intentional in casting a net wider for volunteers.”

CASA’s volunteers need to be at least 21 years old. Anyone interested in applying for the training process can learn all about it from information sessions available on the CASA website (www.casa-satx.org/information-sessions).

This is crucial work that can transform the lives of children.

“Our advocates walk alongside them,” White said, “to be that one stable person who knows everything about that child: medical needs, educational needs, knowing who their relatives are so they can stay connected.

“Because of how overburdened the Child Protective Services system is, there’s nobody else filling that role for that child.”

ggarcia@express-news.net | Twitter: @gilgamesh470



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