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Heart of CASA: May 2023

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 one caring adult

One caring adult can help a child who experiences adversity in childhood develop resiliency and achieve positive outcomes later in life. When a child enters care, CASA works with the child’s parents and family, Child Protective Service (CPS), attorney ad litem, and other parties to find meaningful connections to strengthen or build while the child is in foster care. Oftentimes, that one caring adult who makes a difference is the child’s Advocate.

Showing up

Paul* is the Advocate for two teenage brothers who live in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Maternal grandparents raised the boys until the grandfather died a few years ago, and the family became homeless. The boys were then taken in by a couple that the grandmother met while homeless. After several years of caring for the brothers, the couple brought them to a hospital and said they could no longer keep the boys. Both the boys’ mother and grandmother said they were unable to care for the boys, leaving them without a relative placement. As CPS started the work to find the boys a suitable foster home, Paul began meeting with the brothers, Colin* and Mark*, at their RTC. Paul wanted to get to know them and understand what kind of home the boys thought would be best for them.

A listening voice

Paul has been able to establish a relationship with the boys where they feel comfortable talking to him. He always brings food and a toy for each boy to his visitsTwo boys. During a recent visit, Paul talked with the boys about their hopes and dreams for the present and their future. He asked them what they want a potential family to know about them.

Colin, who is 15 years old, said he loved to be outside, playing football or basketball, hiking, swimming, and fishing. He told Paul about the time he caught a large gar! A typical teen boy, he likes video games, Legos, and movies. Colin showed Paul a sketchbook with several of his drawings of action figures.

Like his older brother, Mark, who is 14, loves to be outside, playing soccer, football, or basketball. He also likes to swim, hike, and fish (his favorite fishing memory involved catching a catfish). He loves all movies, but especially horror movies.

Both boys named science as their favorite subject in school. Colin wants to attend Texas A&M University and become a video game designer. Mark has his sights set on studying robotics at Louisiana State University.

While Paul talked to them about their big hopes and dreams for the future, he also asked them about their simple, everyday preferences in the present, such as what they like to eat (or not eat!). Mark will eat any food but squash or zucchini! Colin loves Mexican food.

Both boys told Paul they are anxiously waiting to be in a home with a family, hopefully together.

Collaboration with cps

While building a relationship with the boys, he also has collaborated with CPS to ensure that the boys’ needs are being met. After his recent visit, Paul shared the information the boys gave him with the caseworker so that she can give prospective foster homes and placements a better idea of the boys’ personalities. The caseworker responded to Paul with thanks for supporting the boys and his advocacy work.

“You are the perfect [Advocate] for these boys,” she wrote in an email. “The care and kindness you show them is just what they need in their lives.”

In the last few years, the boys have not had a consistent, reliable male figure in their lives besides Paul. Neither boy is sure of who his father is. Paul’s CASA case supervisor said the boys like and trust him because he works to understand their needs and wants. After an online search to find family members, Paul and his CASA supervisor started making dozens of calls to try to find the boys a relative caregiver.

Working together, CPS and CASA are searching for a permanent home for the boys, whether with a family member or a foster parent.

Lunch and a movie

As summer approached, the boys told Paul that the long summer days at the facility make them feel sad and provide little hope for typical teenage fun. Both boys really want to see the new Dungeons & Dragons movie. Paul reached out to the boys’ caseworker to arrange an outing this summer. The caseworker, CASA supervisor, and Advocate are planning to treat the boys to lunch, then the movies at an upcoming visit.

Though it’s a simple outing, it will make all the difference to the boys that Paul listened to what they needed and wanted. A CASA Advocate can’t undo the trauma that Colin and Mark have experienced, but Paul can be the one caring adult who helps to change their stories.

*Names changed for privacy

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