Volunteer Spotlight

Mariann CariasMariann Carias, admirably known by her CASA colleagues, as The Bulldog. She received this award and title at the 2018 Spring Appreciation dinner for CASA volunteers.

She gets this title because of her dedication and hard work. One case, and she has had up to four cases at a time, she drives from Quinlan to Fort Worth. With this case — one of her more challenging ones — she mediates between the grandmother and many others involved in the case due to a language barrier. Marianna is bilingual which helps not only in this situation, but it helps with many others involving Hispanic families.

She has been a CASA to 15 children during the past three years. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), she advocates for each and every child she is appointed by the courts to serve. The children served by CASA are placed into the foster care system, and CASA is a strong voice speaking up for the children’s best interests.

“What we do is so valuable. Without CASAs, the wants and needs of children may be overlooked,” Mariann says. “It is a privilege and honor to help.”

As CASA, the volunteer reports information about the children to the judge presiding in the case. Mariann said the judges have a lot of reports to read on cases, but they truly value the CASA’s report. Out of all the people involved in the case, it’s the CASA volunteer who often knows the children best, and the judges appreciate that.

The most difficult part of the work is the bureaucracy.

“It seems there are not enough CPS caseworkers to handle all the children that are pouring into the system, so they can get overwhelmed,” Mariann says. “Hopefully, things are beginning to change.”

What does Mariann do when the going gets tough, frustrating or too sad. First, she laughed and said she eats candy.

“No really, what helps the most is talking to my husband. He is a PAL, and I can share with him what is going on.” Mariann says. A CASA Pal is someone related to the CASA volunteer who, following training that focuses on confidentiality, is there to support the volunteer.

Back in the day, Mariann was a school teacher. She used to give Skittles candy to her students for positive reinforcement.

“But that wasn’t especially healthy – too much sugar — so I switched to stickers,” she explains.

From day one the students new the rules and consequences for both good and bad behavior.

Mariann graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches with a degree in education. She met her husband, Santiago, who is from Honduras. He came to America, and to SFA to study forestry. He had to return to Honduras for seven years to work. Their two sons were born in Honduras.

“As a teacher, there were times I wanted to take a child home with me – a child that was being abused or neglected,” she recalls. Now, as a CASA volunteer, she knows she cannot change their past, but can make a positive difference in their future by being their advocate.