Paul Moore has first-hand experience working with troubled children. He has worked as a therapist and spent several years as a CASA advocate. Now he is taking the reins of CASA Tulare County when Marilyn Barr retires as executive director at the end of June.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) speaks up for the innocent children who are victims of abuse and neglect, advocating for their safety and well-being by training community volunteers to represent their best interests and be their voice in court.
Moore admits he has big shoes to fill, following Barr, who has headed CASA for many years. But he will have more than two months to shadow her before she retires. With Moore’s military, business and social service background, Barr is sure he will take the non-profit agency forward.
“I’m very excited about the new energy and the renewed vision that Paul brings to CASA,” said Barr. “Anybody who takes this position must very much enjoy working with the community and the people in it, and Paul will do that.”
Moore is a true advocate for CASA.
“I know CASA works,” he said, citing his several years advocating for a young boy removed from his home because of abuse. “It changes the direction of a lot of kids’ lives. It just takes one consistent emotionally-available person to help that kid cope with adversity. And it’s a sincere relationship. Volunteers become advocates out of caring. That sends a different message than a paid person.”
Moore himself had a mentor that saved him from a rough childhood.
“My family lived in poverty, and I didn’t have healthy males at home modeling adaptive behavior,” he said.
Schools were allowed to use corporal punishment when Moore was growing up in Colorado. He was paddled in the early grades for misbehaving. Then in sixth grade, he had a teacher who changed Moore’s attitude.
“He gathered up four or five kids that he knew were from financially poor families and asked if we wanted to go out for breakfast on a Saturday,” recalled Moore.
When the teacher dropped them off afterward, he went to the door with each child and told the parents what they had done.
“When he got to my house, I think he was shocked,” said Moore. “After that, he never paddled me again. He would just keep me after school and we’d talk on the steps of the building.”
That made a big difference in Moore’s life.
“When I was a child and got hit by a much bigger person with authority, it made me feel so powerless. It recycled in my head that I was not good enough.”
When the paddling stopped and the talking began, Moore started to believe, “Maybe he thinks I’m okay.”
The life lessons continued when Moore went into the Army.
“The Army training kept repeating that the enemy is not human, I think to make it easier to kill them,” he said. “I figured out at 18 that they were not dehumanizing the enemy; they were dehumanizing us.”
He also discovered in the Army that people had different perspectives about things.
“I realized that if there were eight people looking at a problem, there were eight different viewpoints. Before that, I thought everyone thought like me,” he said.
That fascinated him, and when he left the military, he decided he wanted to take sociology and psychology classes to learn more about human behavior.
“I tried to go to school, but I couldn’t adjust to a class schedule. There were no immediate consequences if you didn’t attend class, and I was too immature to see the bigger picture,” he said. “I thought for a moment I should go back into the military.”
Instead, he got a part-time job in a hardware store, unloading trucks. He had a schedule and structure again, and somehow he bloomed. He was offered more responsibility, and he worked day and night.
“I got some recognition and liked it,” he said. “In a couple of months they asked me to run the warehouse and later, go into sales.”
Soon he was assistant manager, and three years into the job, when he was just 23, Moore was given his own store to manage.
“I didn’t realize it, but the store had chronic problems, and they were going to close it,” he said. “I was their last ditch effort.”
Paul’s experience with human behavior worked for him, and he turned the store around.
“I found the most qualified employees were women—not a traditional idea in a male-dominated business,” he said.
He promoted the women to assistant managers and with teamwork discovered embezzlement was the reason for lagging profits. Once that was resolved, the store became profitable.
For the next 12 years, the company sent him to restructure stores that were in trouble throughout California and Nevada. Moore had a compassionate approach.
“I was a crisis manager, and that scares people,” he said. “They would get emotional and be afraid they were going to lose their job. I let them know I was not there to fire them, but to fix things. I would get to know the staff and their families and learn about their needs.”
He felt his strength was in team building. He even took the door off his office to show his door was always open and sawed it up to demonstrate experientially that they could always come in if they were having trouble.
Now married with two young children, Moore wanted stability for his family and moved back to Visalia, where he had spent his later teen years. He purchased a flooring business, expanded it and ran it for the next 25 years. It was a lucrative business. He liked the people but had to admit, he had no passion for it.
“I used to tell my kids to follow their passion, wherever it takes them,” he said. “Years later, following a personal tragedy, I thought, what a hypocrite I am. I gave advice to my own children and didn’t even follow it myself.”
He wanted to work with kids, troubled kids. He had always been interested in behavior, so at the age of 57 he went back to school and got a BA and MA in psychology. He interned at Central Valley Recovery Services, College of the Sequoias and group homes, working with people convicted of domestic violence, counseling mental health clients, doing reunification counseling with families and case management. Along the way, he became a certified batterers’ intervention instructor and certified clinical hypnotherapist. He also was certified as a group home administrator.
“I didn’t want to be a group home administrator, but as an intern getting my masters in family therapy, I wanted to know the group home rules,” he said.
So he went to the Department of Social Services and enrolled in a class which trained group home administrators. After he passed the test and was certified, a group home needed a new administrator, and Moore agreed to take the job temporarily.
Now he brings all that experience to CASA.
“Advocates have to be resilient. You can’t take the child’s bad behavior personally,” he said. “They are just communicating they have been badly wounded.”
Moore learned that while he served as a CASA advocate.
“I had to engage the child where he was coming from,” he said. “I had to go on his turf with his permission.”
Moore even got approval to take the boy to the coast, which was an amazing first-time experience for the boy. The youth now lives in Northern California, and the two stay connected.
Moore enjoys work, but wants to make it fun. He also enjoys his hours with family, camping, fishing, four-wheel driving and horse riding.
“I have to give much credit to my wife, Melana. Without her support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have this kind of energy,” he said.
But now his emphasis is on CASA.
“There are a significant number of needy kids who don’t have CASAs. My objective is to get more funding for more volunteers,” he said. “Just as important, when you walk into the CASA building, you feel its heart and soul. You feel it. It’s one of the things that kept bringing me back to advocate training when I was not sure volunteering was for me. I want to make sure that never changes.”