Caught in the System: Robin/CASA

Making a Difference

Dr. Phil and Robin are the national spokespersons for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and it is their passion to make a lifelong difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.

Robin recently attended the graduation of some new CASA volunteers.

Standing in front of the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court, Robin says, "In court houses across the country just like this one, the future of foster children is being decided. They're not alone. By their side are some very important people " CASA volunteers."

[AD]Addressing the group of graduates, Robin says, "When they came to Phillip and me and asked us to be a part of CASA, we could not say yes fast enough. We consider it an honor and a privilege to be a part of CASA."

Robin speaks to Michael Piraino, the CEO of CASA. "What is the role of the CASA volunteer in a child's life?" she asks.

"Their job is to go out and talk to everyone, get to know all the kids, observe the home that they're in, read all the reports and then come in to court with their own report," he replies.


Click here to watch Robin address the new recruits.


"We rely on our CASAs to talk to the children and find out what's really going on, form a really good relationship with the child you're assigned to and get more people to become CASAs," says Judge Margaret Henry.

Donning a black robe, Robin addresses the new recruits. "Just call me Judge Robin today, because here I am in the courthouse with all of the CASA volunteers. Let me tell you, we're getting things done. Order in the court!"

Robin asks an older couple, "How did you get involved with CASA?"

[AD]"We watch the Dr. Phil show faithfully. We are both retired school teachers. You guys started talking about CASA. We go, ‘You know what? This might be for us," the woman replies.

"Oh, I love hearing that!" Robin says with a smile.

After the new graduates are sworn in, Robin offers some words of encouragement. "In every chair where you are sitting right now, I imagined a child sitting there. If you just look around the room, and you imagine the number of children you all are going to help, it kind of makes me want to cry," she says. "I know you worked really hard, and I'm really proud of you. I'm just very honored and humbled to be a part of this group. Congratulations!"


Click here to watch Robin's words of encouragement for the new CASA workers.


On videotape, three new volunteers explain how they became involved with Court Appointed Special Advocates.


"I googled volunteer and saw CASA. I saw this little video section and it was Dr. Phil and his wife. I said, ‘Absolutely, I will join forces with these guys and support this organization," says Shanie.

"I saw Dr. Phil's show regarding CASA and foster families," says Lori. "I thought, if I can help even one family, how worth it it would be."

[AD]"I was watching a Dr. Phil episode, and he mentioned the CASA organization," says Sandra, another advocate. "I thought it was great, because helping kids is the most important thing. That's the future."

"I came into the foster care system as a 12-year-old. I never felt like there was anyone advocating for me," Shanie says. "This is my time to give back."

"As a CASA volunteer, I can talk to everybody involved in the case, and insure that what the judge wants done gets done," Sandra says.

"I wanted to say a big thank you to Dr. Phil and Robin by getting the word out there about CASA. I was definitely inspired by Robin's passion," Lori says.

Dr. Phil addresses Lori. "You already have two cases, right?" he asks. "Tell me what your function is."

"My function is to visit the homes, visit the children, make sure they have their needs being met educationally and in the homes and to report to the court what I've seen," she replies.

[AD]Sandra, who has had a case for two months says, "I have two siblings out of a set of eight. One is out of state, so I don't visit with that child, but with my child who's here I visit with and report, and I've spoken to all of the people involved."

"Shanie, you were a foster child, right?" Dr. Phil asks. "So this is a special passion for you."

"Extremely special to me because I know the other side," she replies. "When I was a foster child, I didn't have an advocate and experienced a lot, and didn't have that person saying, ‘This is not right. I need to help this child get out of these situations.'"

Although money is not required to become involved with CASA, Dr. Phil explains the critical need for donations to the organization. "When you become a CASA volunteer, you are sworn in, and you become an officer of the court, after you go through this training. At that point, you have the power to observe this situation, report to the court, make recommendations, ask for changes. All of a sudden a caseworker who's sitting there with 50 files on their desk, if there's a volunteer for each of those files, then all of a sudden, those children have an advocate."

Dr. Phil turns to Michael Piraino, CEO of CASA. "Am I describing this correctly?" he asks.

"You've got it exactly accurate," Michael replies. "If you think of the number of kids that you've been talking about, and you look at the lousy outcomes we tend to get from the system, we have got to fix it."

[AD]Turning to Robin, Dr. Phil jokes, "You looked pretty good up on the judge's bench."

"That was the fun part of the day. The rest of the day was so moving and so enlightening to me. All I could think about was a young child being in that courthouse and looking up at that judge's bench and looking at a real judge and sitting there by themselves," she replies. "It's a very scary thing for a child. I was told by two of the children's court judges that the CASA volunteer's report is as important, if not the most important report, that they read before they go into court the next day to work with that child."

Ten years after the Columbine shootings, survivor Anne Marie found a way to give back to society. She became a CASA volunteer.

Read Anne Marie's profile here.