CASA volunteers make a difference everyday. Here are a few stories from volunteers as well as the children they advocated for.
Barry has been a CASA since 2009 and has served 5 children to date. One of the children Barry advocates for has severe mental health issues that have caused him to be difficult to maintain in a foster home. Barry visits the child frequently and has honest discussions about the child’s behavior, expectations, and goals. Because of Barry’s frequent contact with the child, he was able to advocate for the child’s specific needs, including making changes to visitation, educational settings and therapeutic services. Barry travels over 2 hours one way to visit the child each time and the child looks eagerly forward to visit. Barry noticed at one visit that the child’s face seemed to be swollen or retaining water. Barry contacted the placement and the school to inquire about the physical changes he noticed. He discovered that the child had complained about feeling tired, hot, and uncomfortable at school. Barry immediately contacted the foster parent and asked for the child to be seen by a doctor that day. The foster parent reported that the child had an appointment later in the week. Barry requested that the child be seen that day. He was, and as a result, the child had all of his medications removed. The child no longer has uncomfortable side effects, and it has been discovered that the child is not in need of behavior modification through medication!
Kylie and her younger sister, Megan, came to the attention of the court due to neglect. The conditions of their home were unsuitable for children and they were both placed in a foster home, together. Shortly after coming into custody, Kylie told her workers that her mother physically abused her. Following Kylie’s disclosure, a criminal case was opened against the mother, which required Kylie to testify at hearings regarding the abuse she suffered. A few months after her disclosure, Kylie’s foster home requested that they have a break over a holiday weekend. St. Francis, the foster care agency, attempted to find relatives to take the girls for the weekend, and was able to find a maternal relative willing to house the girls during that time.
The girls reported to their CASA that they did not want to go with her. After some investigation by the CASA, it was discovered that the relative was the mother’s sister, and that she had stalked the family in the past, and physically assaulted the girls’ father. Since no police report was filed, St. Francis was unaware of the incident because the aunt passed criminal background checks. Other family members expressed concern that the aunt would try to manipulate the girls so that they would not testify against their mother, or that the girls would change their story, jeopardizing the criminal case. In an effort to protect the girls and to allow them to testify to the truth, the CASA volunteer contacted St. Francis and the children’s attorney to make sure that the children did not go to the aunt, at least until the criminal case was closed. After diligent advocacy by the CASA, St. Francis agreed to find a foster home for the weekend and did not subject the girls to their aunt, who might have caused undue trauma for the girls and the collapse of the criminal case.
Every time Ryan is written up in the newspaper—for making the honor roll in high school, for being included on dean’s list or president’s list in college, for meeting with elected officials in Austin, TX, or Washington, DC—he cuts the mention out of the paper, and mails it anonymously to one of his former foster fathers.
Just to prove him wrong.
Today, Ryan is 26 years old. He has left Foster Care Alumni and the speaking circuit and settled down in Beaumont, TX. He works as an insurance agent with Farmers Insurance, and goes to college full time. In August 2014, he will complete his bachelor’s degree in social work, and plans to pursue a master’s program in public administration at Lamar University.
And he is a recent newlywed. Ryan says that none of these accomplishments—and those yet to come—would have been possible without the support of his CASA volunteer and the CASA program staff in Beaumont. “CASA is my lifesaver. I would have been lost in foster care. There are so many kids, and not so many social workers. There were times that I didn’t hear from my social worker for three or more months. But I always heard from CASA.” “To this day, I am still close with my CASA volunteer and case supervisor, as well as other staff and even board members. I have a whole cheerleading squad—and they are all affiliated with CASA. I would be a different person today if I hadn’t had that support system, that positive group of folks telling me, ‘Ryan, you can go to college, you will be a good husband, a good father. You don’t have to be afraid to have a child. Ryan, you are a good person.’“I can never pay CASA back for everything they have done for me.”