Not Home for Christmas –The Holiday Experience for Children In Foster Care

For many, the holidays are a time of tradition, new memories sprinkled among old memories, and the comfort and certainty of family.  As we all know, 2020 and COVID-19 have thrown the holidays for a loop this year!  We are scrambling to alter or cancel plans for safety, figure out new ways to carry out old traditions and keep in touch when we can’t be face-to-face.   This admittedly feels chaotic, unwelcome, and out of our control. 

Even in a year when we aren’t facing a global pandemic, children in foster care experience sudden and drastic life changes that feel chaotic, unwelcome and out of their control.  Through no fault of their own, they are removed from their original family due to allegations of abuse or neglect, causing many facets of life as they knew it to suddenly shift.  In addition to the initial trauma of the abuse or neglect they may have experienced, they now may be placed with relatives, foster parents, or in a residential facility, possibly in another city, likely enrolled in a different school, away from friends and familiar faces.  Their life becomes inundated with new faces…caseworkers, attorneys, therapists, teachers, foster parents, or caregivers.  For many children in foster care, the only constant is change. 

If you pull this description into holiday time, you can see that it sets children and youth in foster care up for a holiday experience they didn’t bargain for.  Caseworkers work hard to set up holiday visits with families of origin, but they often do not fall on the holiday itself and, this year due to COVID, are likely virtual.   Some of this likely sounds familiar to a lot of us who have had our own holiday plans upended.  There is a string of similarity between those situations and the reality of children in foster care during the holidays.  It’s all in the interest of safety.  Safety for our health, safety for children. 

The hope in both situations is to be able to return to our prior norms in a safe manner. Just as we all look forward to the day when we can return to our routines without threat of COVID, the hope is always for children in foster care to be able to return to their family of origin, if it has been deemed safe.  As we experience this unique holiday season, may we remember the young members of our community in foster care and hope for their safety and wellbeing.

If you are interested in supporting the work that CASA does to serve children in this situation, consider becoming a CASA. You can learn more about it by visiting https://casaforeverychild.org/volunteer/become-a-casa/. You can also give the gift of CASA this year by donating at http://casaforeverychild.org/give/.


Though born and raised in Fredericksburg, Anna Futral has called Waco home for sixteen years. She is a graduate of Baylor University, where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a Master of Taxation. She built her career as a Certified Public Accountant at JRBT, where she worked for over ten years, specializing in service to nonprofit clients, prior to joining CASA of McLennan County in May of 2017. In addition to her business acumen and administrative leadership skills, Anna brings to CASA a deep-seated passion for children in foster care. She and her husband, Trent, are former foster parents and adopted their three children from foster care in 2016. When she’s not busy leading CASA forward or chasing her kids, ages 5, 6, and 7, Anna enjoys reading, spending time with good people, and working with her husband on their 120-year-old house in the heart of Waco.

Foster Care to Adoption: Our family’s story is unique and precious

By Anna Futral

November is National Adoption Month. CASA volunteers stay by a child’s side throughout the case, advocating first for reunification with the child’s parent(s) when safe and possible. If reunification is not safe or possible, CASA volunteers will advocate for the child to be adopted by, or live with, other relatives or family friends. If that is also not possible, CASA volunteers will work towards adoption by a non-relative. ⁠

Adoption is a beautiful thing, and just like any other major life decision, it’s not always easy. Some of our CASA staff have been through this journey to adopt. Here is our Executive Director, Anna Futral, and her family’s story.

In the summer of 2012, my husband, Trent, and I had been married four years, had the house, the cars, the jobs, and by all normal accounts, having a baby would be a next logical step in our life at that point.  But we’ve never really followed convention, meanwhile, every time the baby conversation came up between us, we both ended up feeling somewhat ambivalent about it, like it wasn’t the answer for us, like there was a different plan in store for our hopes of building a family.  Turns out…we were right.

Adoption had always been in the back of our minds.  My husband and his sister were each adopted, so that has always been a piece of our puzzle.  As baby conversations continued to stall out, we decided to be proactive and research, listen and learn, not knowing that this new path would take hold of us so quickly and so firmly.  We heavily researched international adoption, domestic adoption, and that scary thing called foster care, initially setting it on the shelf as something for people more mature than us in our mid-20s, or at least who have some parenting experience.  Taking care of a child and then possibly letting them go, abuse, neglect, court dates, birth parent visits, potential behavior and medical problems, social workers, therapists, so many unknowns… 

Nevertheless, we sat down for a meeting with a foster care agency, thinking we were just gathering information.  Afterwards, we got in my car and I turned it on but we didn’t go anywhere for a few minutes, even though we both needed to get back to work.  He said “That felt really, really normal to sit there and talk about all that.”  I said, “I know.”  There was a strange mixture in our hearts and gut of both peace and fear, both “Yes, this is right” mixed with “You have got to be kidding me.” I stared wide eyed over the steering wheel with tears on my cheeks and Trent stared wide eyed at me.  Then we went back to work.

Looking at the world around us, we see so much hurt and pain.  We can look overseas at the extreme poverty, starvation and orphanage there.   In the summer of 2012, we looked right out our door and realized there are children needing a home right in our own community.  Without getting into a debate about which is more important (both are extremely important in our world), we decided that our hearts lie in our local community.   So we jumped all in.

The next several years were intense yet exciting, complex yet contained some of the easiest and clearest decisions we’ve ever made.  As we opened our home to two and then three children, we were surrounded by caring support and capable professionals.  Though the details of our family’s story are our own, a winding path with many curveballs across several years culminated in our open adoption of three biological siblings.

Our family’s story is unique. Our family’s story is challenging.  Our family’s story is precious.

We honor our children’s past, celebrate their present and eagerly anticipate their future.  We have good times and we laugh so, so often.  We work through life’s plain ole challenges as a plain ole family.  We face confusion and questions about their tricky start in life when they rise up and we block out the rest of the world, plop down on the rug, hash through it all, say as many words and cry as many tears as we need to until we are as much at peace as we can be in that moment. 

Being an adoptive family isn’t always easy. Turmoil pops up and trauma surfaces.  Strangers make ignorant comments about our family and people assume things about our story that are entirely false.  But we rally as their parents and circle around them.  At times we will take the blows on their behalf and shield them entirely, other times we will jump down into the trench with them.  Still other times we will sit back and cheer them on from afar as they live out their unique, challenging, precious story with strength, confidence and love.

To learn more about CASA’s work advocating for children in foster care please email recruiter@casaforeverychild.org or call (254) 304-7982 or visit casaforeverychild.org.


Though born and raised in Fredericksburg, Anna Futral has called Waco home for sixteen years.  She is a graduate of Baylor University, where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a Master of Taxation.  She built her career as a Certified Public Accountant at JRBT, where she worked for over ten years, specializing in service to nonprofit clients, prior to joining CASA of McLennan County in May of 2017.  In addition to her business acumen and administrative leadership skills, Anna brings to CASA a deep-seated passion for children in foster care.  She and her husband, Trent, are former foster parents and adopted their three children from foster care in 2016.  When she’s not busy leading CASA forward or chasing her kids, ages 5, 6, and 7, Anna enjoys reading, spending time with good people, and working with her husband on their 120-year-old house in the heart of Waco.

What is it like to be a CASA Volunteer?

By Charles Borsellino

I was recently asked by my CASA supervisor if I was available to take on a new CASA child.  It made me think about the road I took to be a CASA volunteer.  I left Waco in 1975 to pursue a career in Houston and moved back in 2012 after retiring a second time.  I would hear occasional radio spots about CASA, something I guess I overlooked in Houston for the 37 years I lived there.  My involvement was a very slow process, but I eventually took time to find out what CASA was all about.  After doing so, I realized that this might afford me an opportunity to actually make a positive and lasting impact on a child’s life.   I retired from teaching and found some of the students who showed so much promise in my classroom had been pushed into troubling situations as they got older.  As a teacher, you have the opportunity and means to prepare and motivate children, but it is only for a short time.  Outside of school, many grow up in troubled homes and surroundings that have more impact than I, as a teacher, could ever hope.  

I finally signed up to be a CASA volunteer advocate in 2019.  I attended classes for three Thursday evenings with eight really great and caring classmates and knowledgeable instructors who were passionate about the children for which the program is intended.  We learned about the laws, procedures, and paperwork (there is always paperwork) through in-class instruction and assigned homework.  But we also got to meet seasoned volunteers at our sessions.  They answered our questions and gave us insight into the emotional highs and lows they encountered. 

We graduated as the largest class of volunteers in McLennan County.  Everyone who started the first day finished and was sworn in by Judge NikkiMundkowsky on July 30, 2019.  We soon met with our assigned supervisors and reviewed the casework for the child (or children, in the event of siblings) we had been assigned.  As I read the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) report it was hard to imagine even a little of what my CASA child had been through.  I remember wondering how a person who had been through so much could ever grow up and lead a normal and productive life.  How could any input from me be of any use?

I didn’t have long to think about it.  A court date sprang up almost immediately and I had only a short time to meet my child, the DFPS caseworker, Attorney ad litem, Assistant District Attorney, the placement (family keeping the child) and the birth parents.  I had to prepare a Court Report while trying to recall everything I had been taught in the classes.  I have to admit, it was a pretty daunting experience.  I soon learned that my supervisor was always willing to help and I have now come to depend on her whenever I encounter anything I am unsure of.  In court I was prepared to give my recommendations but found myself called to testify, something for which I was not prepared for.  That was followed by what seemed like continuous activity. 

There seemed to be one hearing or conference after another.  I observed visitations at the DFPS offices and visited the placement family that had taken my CASA child in.  I made appointments with teachers and counselors and probably learned more about my CASA child than I knew about my own.  I listened to the facts and advocated for my CASA child’s best interests.   I also discovered that some things that at first seemed black and white became gray over time.  It’s a humbling experience when you discover your beliefs about someone or something might be wrong.   Still, as chaotic as things got to be at times, a visit with my CASA child always made everything worthwhile.  That is one amazing kid.

I have gotten to know the stakeholders in the case pretty well during my time with this case, though the players seem to change.  Of course, the teachers change from one school year to the next.  Those kind of changes are expected and easy to handle.  But even attorneys involved have come and gone.  Then there are the DFPS caseworkers.   We are on our third.  I have gained a lot of respect for those caseworkers.  Here I was finding it hard to keep up with just my single CASA child while the caseworkers juggled around twenty.  Each of their cases involving weekly court appearances and court reports, and children in situations that would make nearly anyone cry.  Yet I have been impressed with each as they’ve shown compassion and a high level of caring for their charges during the limited time available.  I have spoken with ours on weekends and holidays.  I don’t know when they take a break.

After talking to other volunteers I have learned that most cases are not so active and testifying in court is very rare.  Regardless, each volunteer has one goal, to advocate for what is best for the child.  It has been a great experience and one that I hope benefits my CASA child and, in turn, our community. 

All that brings me to why I am writing this.  I feel it is important for me to remain a CASA volunteer after my CASA child’s disposition.  As the advocate for such a child I might be the only constant in an otherwise confused and sad situation.  While I don’t believe I have done anything that anyone else couldn’t have done, I do believe it is important that it was done, and I did it.

For more information about how to become a CASA please contact CASA of McLennan County at recruiter@casaforeverychild.org or call (254) 304-7982.


Charles Borsellino was born and raised in Waco, but moved to Houston in 1975 to join the Houston Police Department.  Before retirement he went back to college at the University of Houston to get his teaching certificate. He taught elementary school in Houston until he retired from Houston ISD and moved back to Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.