New Braunfels resident Chris Douglas will tell you she got her passion to give by watching her parents.
“I remember that very distinctly, and so when I became a teenager, my parents became foster parents,” Douglas said. “They took care of over 50 children throughout their fostering lifespan, and so that really shaped me.”
She also saw how the Child Protective Service staff treated her parents — very poorly.
“Even after a child had been with us for over a year, they would just call my mom and say, ‘Hey, we’re coming in 30 minutes to pick up, Jamie, so just get her ready,’” Douglas recalled. “‘You don’t need to send anything with her at all.’”
Her mother would tell CPS the child is a part of their family, and that they needed to say goodbye, and that it was not fair to the child.
“And so I thought at that moment, ‘I want to be a social worker,’” she said.
Douglas grew up Houston, one of six children, and said her parents taught them to be helpful and care for others.
She attended Texas State, back when it was still Southwest Texas State University, where she earned her degree in sociology. While it wasn’t a degree in social work, she said it was close enough and helpful because she learned about families and cultures.
She earned her masters in social work at Our Lady of the Lake University.
She then began getting involved.
“It was always about families and kids, and then taking leadership positions, supervisory management, that kind of thing,” Douglas said. “Of course, people who know me think I’m very outgoing but I’m very quiet. I’m very introverted but because I’m talking about communities, I could talk to anybody anytime. I’m so passionate.”
After college, her first job was certifying families for food stamps in Houston, which she did for a year. From there she moved to Corpus Christi and worked with Child Protective Services.
“I began working with abuse and neglect investigations, and then I did adoption work, and then I specialized in sexual abuse investigations and settlements,” Douglas said.
It was around this time that she met her husband of 32 years.
He was a detective with the police department and they met doing investigations, particularly the investigation of an infant’s death.
“I had known him, but I never saw him until after that,” Douglas said of her husband. “I saw what a dedicated person he was and he just kind of won me over.”
She stayed with the Department of Family and Protective Services and moved to New Braunfels where she did more investigations and then became a supervisor.
Afterward, she applied to the director position at Communities in Schools, where she’s been for 22 years.
In total, she has been a social worker for 43 years.
“You’ll notice that I moved around a lot of years because I needed a change, because it’s very stressful, and I was fortunate to be able to try a lot of different things,” Douglas said. “My family laughed at me because I wouldn’t keep the same position for more than three years.”
There’s so much about what Douglas does that she loves.
“In so many jobs as a social worker you are planting seeds and not being able to see those trees grow the fruits of your labors so to speak,” she said. “But in Communities in Schools, because we work with kids year after year, you can see the growth and the potential that comes to paper.”
CIS also works with kids after high school. Now, she sees them as adults, as parents and as business people.
Most recently, it is awareness of the mental health problems that exist within the community, but primarily with the kids.
She has been involved with Communities in Schools State Advisory Committee and appointed by the lieutenant governor for about 12 years. She is involved in the local Chamber of Commerce, and she is the chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee. She has also been the chair of the Business Education Partnership and participated with a local committee throughout the community focusing on mental health issues.
In 2012, she was named Citizen of the Year by the Herald-Zeitung.
“That meant a lot to me,” Douglas said.
She was named to the Wall of Honor at Honors Hall at the chamber.
She has five grown children and nine grandchildren — people she said are very important in her life as well.
In her spare time, she gardens.
“I love flowers, I really wish I could be a master gardener,” Douglas said.
She has looked into the classes, but she cannot take them at the moment.
“It’s really for people who are retired or who don’t work, so someday I’m going to do that,” she said.
In addition to her love of gardening, she also loves the water, swimming and being on a river or a lake. She has always loved sailing. When she was a teenager, she was a surfer.
“I’ve jumped out of an airplane and look forward to do that again because it’s just so gorgeous and beautiful.”
While her husband is retired, she does not plan to anytime soon.
“I’m not one of those people that rest on my laurels,” Douglas said. “It’s like ‘OK, what’s next? Where do we go from here?’”
She said she’s passionate about continuing this work, and feels lucky to be doing what she does every day.
“I just can’t ever see myself retiring, plus there’s always going to be a child who needs a family and who needs help,” she said.