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Heart of CASA: June 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.

Hope in family

Our hope in every case is to help reunite a family in crisis while ensuring the well-being of the children we serve. If a child can’t safely remain with their parents, we look to relatives or fictive kin to care for the child. Our commitment and belief in reunification with family of origin is one of our guiding principles of advocacy. June is National Reunification Month—a time we celebrate the power of family reunification and its lasting positive impact on the lives of children in the foster care system and their families.

We have so many stories of Advocates who have left no stone unturned when looking for family members—in honor of National Reunification Month, we are highlighting the incredible efforts of one Advocate, Meg*, to connect children in care with safe relatives in four cases this year!

Three brothers

Three brothers

After three boys, ages 11 to 7, were removed from their home due to allegations of physical abuse, Child Protective Services (CPS) placed them with their step-mother while their father stayed elsewhere. At Meg’s first visit with the boys, all three said they felt safe with their step-mother as well as their dad. They also shared that they did not want to live with their mother again. Earlier in their lives, the mother had primary custody of the boys, and she was interfering with the boys’ school and home life. Meg also met with their dad and step-mother.

After conferring with the CPS investigator, the children’s attorney, and her Child Advocates Case Supervisor, Meg recommended to the court that the children return to their father. The Judge agreed and named the father Temporary Managing Conservator of the boys, dismissing the case from child welfare court and moving it to family law. The case closed in just 21 days, and in that short time, Meg made a lifelong impact on the boys’ wellbeing by advocating to keep the boys in their home with their father and step-mother and helping the family avoid a lengthy child welfare case.

Family in crisis

In another case that closed in three weeks, five children, ages 13 to 4, were placed in three placements—two foster homes and an emergency shelter—after removal from their parents. Through conversations with CPS, the parents and children, and attorneys involved, Meg considered the mother a greater risk to the children’s safety due to her struggles with addiction. While the father was not as high a risk as the mom, CPS, the Court, and the Advocates still voiced concerns about the father’s ability to provide a safe home.

The Judge ordered that the case be moved to Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS), allowing the children to live with their father together while their mother sought assistance at a rehabilitation center. When a child’s safety can be reasonably assured at home, CPS provides in-home services (FBSS) to help stabilize the family and reduce the risk of future abuse or neglect. Volunteer Advocates are not appointed to FBSS cases, so Meg was dismissed. The Judge said he wished she could remain on the case, noting the difference she’d made.

support for a teen

In another case, Meg advocated for a teenage boy, Adam*. With his parents’ rights terminated and his sibling adopted, Adam is without any family in a foster home. Meg contacted two adult cousins found through a search—Adam remembered them fondly. The cousins had been unable to find Adam in years due to the child welfare case. While they were unable to be a placement, they wanted to support Adam and have a relationship with him.

ice cream cones

Meg worked tirelessly with CPS, the foster home, and Child Advocates to get approvals for Adam to meet with his relatives. To help facilitate the reunion, Meg got special permission to transport Adam for the visit and Meg’s husband took training to be a Helping Heart with Child Advocates. Meg and Adam met with the two cousins for lunch and ice cream. The bond between the three with a lot of laughter and a few tears at the joy of reunion. Meg is working to continue those monthly visits for Adam with his family.

newborn arrives home

Born prematurely, a baby girl was placed in the NICU after the death of her mother during childbirth and the father wanted no involvement. When Meg arrived at the hospital to meet baby Paige* as her court-appointed Advocate, she also met Paige’s older sister who was visiting.

The nurses said the sister, who was an adult but a teenager, had visited the baby every day since birth. Meg talked with the sister, June*, and learned that the mother had received no visitors before she passed, other than her daughter. June along with one of Mom’s relatives, had helped her mom during the pregnancy. June named the new baby, per her mom’s request. CPS, Child Advocates, and the child’s attorney all noted the deep love June had for her newborn sister and their bond—the only concern was her young age. The mother’s relative, who had lived with the family, was supportive and wanted to continue to live with the girls.

baby feet

Meg, along with CPS and the child’s attorney, advocated to place the child with June. Though young, June was bonded and committed to raising her baby sister. After her mother passed, June gave up a scholarship to attend college out of state so that she could remain with her sisters.

The Judge agreed and ordered placement of Paige with her older sister. June spent that night after the hearing at the NICU, learning how to care for the premature infant, including feeding and changing her, before she left the hospital. After the case closed and Paige was with her sister, June invited Meg to visit. The house was perfectly set up for the baby, and June was holding her sister when Meg arrived. Paige was home.

*Names changed for privacy


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