How One Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Made a Difference
Success for a child in foster care may look a little different than what one might consider success for a typical child. Success for them is one more step toward overcoming abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Success might mean a year of school uninterrupted by a change in household. Success often means finding permanency, whether that be with their biological parents, an extended family member, a long-term foster placement, or adoption.
For Alyssa, found in a drug raid in an abandoned house when she was three, success is all of those things, thanks in part to her CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). When she was found by law enforcement, she was dirty, scared and wasn’t able to communicate clearly except to say “no”. No one knew her name. No one in that house full of drugs and guns and strangers was watching out for her.
Her communication was so unclear that at first, her CPS worker thought she only understood Spanish. She was placed in a foster home with a foster parent who also happened to be a kindergarten teacher. From the first time her CASA Advocate visited them in their home, she could sense that there was a strong bond beginning to develop and that Alyssa was going to get the loving care and attention she so desperately needed.
Through the investigation, Alyssa’s parents, who had had their other children previously taken away in another county, put on a good appearance. They came to visitations; they were doing what they needed to do to get Alyssa back. However, with their long-term pattern of behavior with drugs and placing children in unsafe environments, Alyssa’s Advocate and case worker had their doubts.
In her Advocate’s words
“I was very worried about the possibility of Alyssa being returned to them. While reviewing the CPS file from the previous case, I discovered the name of the CASA volunteer that had been involved with the case more than 5 years before. There was only a name, no contact information, but through the wonders of Facebook we connected. She provided us with important details about the disturbing circumstances of the removals and volunteered to come at her own expense to testify should we need her at any point. We stayed in touch over the next few months.
Meanwhile, I continued tracking down family, neighbors, landlords and anyone else who had contact with the parents, and I started watching the parents’ Facebook pages. On the day of trial, the CASA volunteer was scheduled to testify in the afternoon, so she began driving the 5 hours it would take to get here before the trial started. Two hours into her drive, it became clear we wouldn’t need her testimony, and we called to tell her she could turn around. New evidence had come to light that proved the parents hadn’t changed their lifestyle at all and their rights were terminated. But that shows the determination of Advocates – ready and willing to do whatever is needed for the best interest of the child!”
A Better Future for Alyssa
Alyssa was adopted by her foster mom on National Adoption Day, November 15, 2011, just a little more than a year from when she was found in a home surrounded with drugs, a loaded handgun and nobody living there knew her name. Today, she dresses like a princess, bakes cookies, enjoys doing crafts, reads books, and loves using her rapidly growing vocabulary. She talks and talks! All in all, it’s a story with a great outcome and demonstrates the positive effect CASA can have in the life of a child.
Alyssa’s success story is just one of many for children in foster care. CASA’s goal is to make every child’s story a success story. Every child needs to be heard, to be loved, to have stability, safety, and security. Foster children, through no fault of their own, find themselves in exceptional circumstances where they lack these things. They need you to help them. You can be their voice, their Advocate.
Become a CASA today. When you volunteer for CASA, you give hope to a child who has been the victim of abuse or neglect.