Three-year old Emily was removed from her parents’ care after police found heroin, marijuana and glass drug pipes in her home and all within reach. Several mental health issues also disrupted the family. Once in foster care, Emily was assigned a CASA advocate. This volunteer took delight in advocating for Emily. A bright and energetic child, the two bonded and always enjoyed their visits together. Often they would play outdoors, do arts and crafts, or color in Emily’s favorite princess coloring book. During the case, the CASA advocate ensured Emily’s best interests were represented. When play therapy was ordered by the court, the volunteer ensured this service was initiated quickly by professionals and reported Emily’s progress. The CASA advocate also worked closely with Emily’s preschool to help her transition into a school setting, where she flourished. She also connected with the foster family, ensuring their access to community resources when available and sharing their commitment to the child with the judge. When the court decided that Emily could not return to her parents and their rights were terminated, she was adopted by this family. Today, Emily is happy and thriving, and is also enjoying the company of her new older sister.
Miguel was removed from his parents’ care for a number of concerns; this included domestic violence, drug use and distribution, and mental health issues. Twelve years-old at the time, Miguel had prior endured many years of this environment, documented at the Division of Children and Families. Numerous interventions to preserve the family had been implemented, but unfortunately nothing succeeded long-term. Once placed in foster care, a CASA advocate was assigned to Miguel. During the case, Miguel confided in his advocate, sharing his past experiences and the anger he felt toward his parents for their continued lack of progress and control. Individual therapy addressed this anger and his CASA advocate reported being impressed by the young man’s maturity to accept and cope with the situation. His advocate encouraged Miguel to focus on normal pre-teen activities, like his studies, playing basketball and following his interest to join the school choir. In time, Miguel excelled in all of these areas, even being offered an opportunity to perform a solo with his choir at a local community college. When termination of parental rights, followed by a change in foster placement became necessary, the CASA volunteer advocated for Miguel to be placed with a relative in another state. This relative was instrumental in Miguel’s life and was already having regular communication with him. After an extended stay in the relative’s home, a permanent guardianship for Miguel had been found. Today, Miguel is thriving and living with family in a home environment. He is happy and glad to have been given the opportunity to remain connected to family.
Lana was brought into care for abandonment, medical neglect, and inadequate housing. Her mother had relocated to a neighboring state and left Lana without supervision. Sixteen at the time, Lana had endured challenges with several untreated medical problems and had to be hospitalized for concerns of self-harm stemming from depression, anxiety and abandonment issues. A CASA advocate was assigned to Lana upon her entrance in foster care and began to encourage her to take control of her situation. This was all the more necessary, as Lana’s father was uninterested in his daughter; and therefore, not a placement option. Although Lana was unwilling to attend a regular high school, she agreed to the CASA advocate’s suggestion of online classes. In order to meet eligibility requirements for enrollment, Lana did need to complete two on-site classes, held daily at the high school. Hesitant and quite anxious, Lana agreed and began sharing her experiences with the CASA advocate. With this encouragement, proper medication and treatment, as well as counseling, Lana blossomed. In addition to the required classes, she eventually enrolled in ceramics, drawing, and film courses. She even attended the senior prom and participated in her high school graduation ceremony. Her CASA advocate continued to encourage Lana, and was instrumental in helping the teen establish goals for her future. This included helping her to map out plans for becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT); and assisting Lana in correctly completing all necessary applications for financial aid and college enrollment. Before “aging out” of the foster care system, the CASA advocate also assisted Lana in identifying a positive support system. This includes extended family, former foster parents, and a former high school counselor with whom the teen now resides.