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Heart of CASA: April 2024

The Heart of CASA is a series to highlight the aspects of our volunteer work. Advocacy for a child in care covers several activities from court hearings to visits with a child to conversations with parents. Each month, we’ll share a story of a small (or big!) moment from one of our cases that exemplifies what advocacy can mean to a child and their families.

CONNECTION TO transportation

Mom and son walking

Throughout her case in the child welfare court, Jess* struggled to maintain reliable transportation. The single mother often had to reschedule case meetings or appointments if she couldn’t find a ride. The lack of a vehicle limited her to minimum-wage employment within walking distance of her home. That limitation prevented her from accepting a position she was offered that would have increased her income.

Despite the challenge, Jess secured rides to her weekly visits with her five-year-old son, Cade*, and to the court hearings. She continued to work toward her goal of being reunified with Cade. She made steady progress on her service plan, required by the court and Child Protective Services (CPS).      

support from the community

Jess’s barriers to transportation were bigger than needing a car—Jess didn’t have a Texas driver’s license. She also needed to obtain an SR-22, a special form from an auto insurance company certifying that one meets the state’s minimum requirements for liability coverage.

Cade’s Advocate, Lucy*, knew that reliable transportation would be necessary for Jess to provide a safe and stable home for Cade as a single mom. Lucy reached out to God’s Garage, a nonprofit organization in Conroe, Texas, that gifts dependable vehicles for free to under-resourced single mothers, widows, and spouses of deployed service members who are unable to purchase one on their own. God’s Garage also assists with auto repairs by providing labor at no charge and assisting with the purchase of parts.

Due to the demand in our community, God’s Garage is not able to fulfill all requests for vehicles—only about 10 percent of the women who apply receive assistance from the organization.

After the Advocate shared with Jess the criteria needed to apply for a vehicle, Jess completed the necessary steps, including getting a valid driver’s license. Though it was a long shot, she submitted her application to God’s Garage with the encouragement of Cade’s Advocate, Lucy. God’s Garage is about more than providing vehicles; the team wants to empower women for their rest of their lives. While waiting for a vehicle, the women enroll in a seminar that provides instruction on basic life skills, such as budgeting and interviewing for jobs. The nonprofit sees the vehicle as the stepping stone to a positive life transformation. And that’s exactly what Jess was working toward in her own life through her parenting classes, TBRI® coaching, and substance abuse program.

a return home

Jess completed the God’s Garage seminar, but that did not automatically qualify her to get a vehicle. She worked her job, completed her service plan, and visited Cade every week, in hopes that he would return home. Jess’s CPS caseworker and Lucy both wrote letters of recommendation to God’s Garage, confirming that Jess was sober and following her court-ordered service plan.

One afternoon, Jess received a surprise phone call from Lucy and her CPS Caseworker. With her services completed, Jess was approved to start a monitored return home with her son! Cade and Jess started the transition process where the mom and son had unsupervised visits together, then an overnight visit, before he returned home to live with his mom full-time.

Jess still didn’t have a vehicle. A family friend loaned her his vehicle while he was out of town, which helped for a few weeks, but he needed it back when he returned from his trip.

the reveal

That same week, Cade’s Advocate received a call from God’s Garage. The nonprofit selected Jess to receive a car—they needed Lucy’s help in getting Jess to the nonprofit for a surprise ceremony.

Mom with new car keys

Along with seven other single mothers, Jess arrived at the garage for a “graduation” celebration for completing the required seminar. Lucy, the Child Advocates Case Supervisor, and the Caseworker also attended. At the end of the “graduation,” the group of women walked into the garage. Eight vehicles were lined up with bows and each woman’s name on her vehicle. Jess found her name on a Jeep Cherokee, and God’s Garage handed her the keys and the title to her SUV.

Lucy said receiving a vehicle has transformed Jess’s life and enabled her to provide a more stable home for Cade.

“It opened up a world to her that she didn’t have before,” Lucy said. “Jess was overjoyed at the event. She cried. She was so thankful for the opportunity. She’s now working two jobs, and she can get to both on her own! She has tripled her income.”

Prior to receiving the car, Jess could only get enough hours for two days of work. Now she is working full-time.  

Driving into the future

The Jeep had some mechanical issues a few weeks after she received it, and God’s Garage not only repaired it at no cost to Jess but also provided her with a loaner car so that she could maintain her new employment.

Most importantly, Cade was home with his mom. The monitored return home period ended successfully with no concerns from the Advocate or CPS. The courts closed the case at the final hearing. Jess drove away, with this part of her past in the rearview mirror, and her eyes set on the bright road ahead with Cade.

*Names changed for privacy


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