Like most fathers, Bill Beatty's days were filled with work and family life while his two daughters were growing up.
"When you're working long hours, you're not really contributing much to the greater community outside your home because you simply don't have the time," says Bill, a retired geologist and petroleum engineer. "Now I have more hours in my day to give back."
Bill's volunteer opportunity of choice wasn't immediately apparent to him as he approached retirement.
"A colleague of mine at DeGolyer and MacNaughton [a petroleum consulting firm in Dallas] had an unfamiliar ID badge hanging from the rearview mirror in his car," says Bill. "I asked him about it, and he told me he was a CASA volunteer."
Advocate for children
Court Appointed Special Advocates [CASA] volunteer on behalf of children in foster care. Their role is to advocate for the best interests of the child.
"I thought it sounded interesting," says Bill. "Then one day I visited my daughter, and she was standing in her front yard talking with a neighbor when I drove up. Her neighbor is a juvenile court judge, who explained the role of a CASA volunteer and told me there's a need for people who can represent children. That's when I signed up for the training."
Bill completed his training in 2007. In his capacity as a CASA volunteer for Collin County, Tex., Bill serves as the guardian ad litem for children assigned to him by a caseworker from Child Protective Services.
"When a child is extracted from his or her parents, there's an initial hearing," says Bill. "I attend that hearing and then visit the child at least twice a month to see how he or she is doing. In court cases, everyone has a lawyer—the state, the defendants—everyone except the child. My job as guardian ad litem is to represent the best interests of the child. One judge put it this way—we're the eyes and ears of the court."
Bill typically advocates for one or two children at a time, visiting them in their placement home and at their daycare or school.
"My involvement with each child usually lasts one and a half years and ends when the child is returned to his or her parents, adopted, or placed with a family member," says Bill.
Meeting a need
In 2015, Bill and his wife Joy moved from their house in Plano to Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas.
"One day, Joy commented that she was tired of cooking," says Bill. "I joked that I wasn't tired of eating. It sounds a little lighthearted, but there was truth behind it. We were ready for a change."
At Highland Springs, Bill and Joy found a whole new set of activities to keep them active and engaged. In addition to his volunteer work, Bill enjoys working in the on-site woodshop and serves on the community's Resident Advisory Council.
"You have to stay active and keep your brain engaged," says Bill, who plans to continue his work as a CASA volunteer for the foreseeable future.
"I do it because I love children and want them to have someone in their corner," he says. "I don't want to miss a chance to help a child who needs it."