a casa changes a child's story
The children’s parents lived separately in two different states and each had their own court-ordered case plans to regain custody. To the father’s credit, he progressed towards the compliance of his goals more rapidly and eventually regained custody of the oldest child, with conditions. This court plan gave the father an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to care for one child before entrusting the other two siblings to his care. Pam provided guidance and encouragement to the father to accomplish his goals. Despite that in 2020 Pam’s work was constrained by the COVID pandemic, she persisted by continuing socially-distanced, in-person visits to assure the father was taking good care of his eldest child.
Unfortunately, then came red flags. Pam was on hand to notice the lapses, prompting her and the case manager to address these significant concerns. Though reunification is always the ultimate goal, in this case Pam documented and reported that the father’s situation was deteriorating.
A CASA Volunteer Can Turn a Child’s Story Around
During these long months, Pam had never given up on the mother to have her accomplish her case plan goals to be reunited with the children as well. The mother first demonstrated she was on the road to success by completing her substance use disorder treatment program. She met with her children regularly. She obtained stable housing and gainful employment. Pam made trips out of state to meet with the mother in order to document her improving circumstances, not letting preconceived opinions interfere with increasingly positive observations. Pam ensured that the courts and all parties had records and photographs to inform the court of the mother’s progress. Pam’s efforts prompted a turnaround in the children’s circumstance. At the next hearing, the Judge accepted Pam’s recommendation and returned custody of all three siblings to their mother.
Dedication of Our CASA Volunteers
To change a child’s story, we need strong CASA advocates who recognize and document when a child’s life circumstances alter. With eyes and ears on the ground, a CASA’s recommendations can adroitly shift to recognize an evolving situation. As Pam demonstrated so forcefully, CASAs play this crucial role, of speaking up – sometimes as a lone voice – to advocate for the child’s best interest. With this support, the children become stronger and persevere to overcome the trajectory of their initial story.
Remember, a CASA is the voice for the child. We integrate ourselves into a child’s case, chronicle the minute details of their lives and stand up to be heard. In Pam’s case, the three children eventually were reunified with their mother and today they are thriving and happy. Pam stays in touch, further strengthening the bond that formed over time. Even though 2020 presented barriers unlike any we could have imagined, Pam found creative ways to help the three siblings settle into their permanent home.
Our CASAs work tirelessly to support over 375 children who live in foster care. Today, Pam is again displaying her dedication to help another child find a permanent home - this time with her grandparents. Again, we rejoice, she’s almost there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - SHARON NEWMAN