These are stories of just a few of the children our CASA volunteers have served. Names and some circumstances have been changed to protect the children's confidentiality.
Michael grew up in foster care. He had been removed from his parents at age 4 because his father threw him against a wall. There had been a long history of violence in the home, and Michael was one of its victims. Child protective authorities placed him with relatives, where he was again abused and removed at age 6. This time he was placed in a non-relative foster home.
Michael moved around a lot, eventually residing in eight different homes. When he turned 14, he discovered wrestling, falling in love with the sport. He attended practices, played in the games, and was thrilled to be a part of the team. However, one day during practice Michael was hit and held by a teammate, triggering a flashback to his abuse. He lashed out in an effort to protect himself, resulting in his dismissal from the team.
Michael was devastated. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the abuse he suffered, and the wrestling coach didn’t understand its dynamics. Michael’s CASA, Phyllis, fortunately did understand. She asked for a meeting between the school, the therapist, the caseworker, and herself. She advocated for Michael’s reinstatement on the team, helping the coach understand that he was re-living his abuse and in his mind he was protecting himself. He wasn’t a violent person or a threat to anyone – he just had some struggles he had to work through. With the CASA’s help, the coach was able to understand PTSD, and Michael was reinstated to the team.
Two young siblings were struggling with reading, and their CASA volunteer, Diane, recognized that they needed help strengthening those skills. She took the initiative to try and get them assistance. She acted as a liaison between the school and a community program to find a free reading volunteer. While waiting for this service to begin, she increased her visits to the kids so she could read with them. When the children were moved from a foster home to a relative’s home, Diane went with their caregiver to register them for school and made sure that their IEPs were successfully transferred and they were enrolled in summer school. Diane’s efforts ensured that these children got the reading help and support they needed, both in and out of school.
Lisa was a newly assigned CASA to a case with two children who had been removed from their mother because of drug and alcohol issues. The court’s plan was to place the children with their father, with whom they had not lived since they were very young. The children expressed great fear about this move – they didn’t know their father, and he had not been a part of their lives for some time. Lisa listened and respected the children’s concerns.
She reported the children’s fears to the court, giving them a voice in the proceedings. The judge too felt the children’s concerns were valid, and the move was delayed to allow them to engage in family therapy with their father. There were insurance barriers and a lack of funds to begin the process, but Lisa was again able to advocate for the children and find a way to make it work. With her solution in place, the family was able to get started in therapy within a few weeks. The children and their father are now getting reacquainted and are rebuilding their family.
Ashley had a myriad of problems, including a history of running, poor school attendance, substance abuse problems, and emotional and behavioral issues. Annie was assigned to her as a CASA advocate and began visiting Ashley regularly. As they talked, Ashley expressed a desire to be a nurse. Annie thought about how she could best help Ashley make this dream come true. She contacted a local hospital to arrange for her to be a student volunteer there. She also contacted a local community college and other post-secondary schools regarding nursing programs as well as funding possibilities. She was able to arrange for Ashley to observe same day surgery and to "shadow” a nurse in a local hospital.
Annie ensured that Ashley attended school on a regular basis, which is something that did not happen in the past, and stayed in regular contact with school personnel. She got Ashley an SAT workbook to help her prepare to take the exam. She continued to visit regularly and became a stable, caring adult in Ashley’s life.
Ashley is presently in a stable foster home, is doing well in school, is volunteering in her community, works part-time, has a driver’s license and a car, and is doing well in all regards. It has taken a village to help her, but she is a success story by any standard. As her CASA, Annie encourages Ashley when she succeeds and works with her to solve problems when they arise. For the first time in her life, Ashley has goals and a positive future ahead of her.