4 Salem County CASA Kids Reunified with Family.
Andrea, Sebastian, Aidan, and Evan were removed from their home after the Division received a report that Andrea had head lice for the fourth time in a year. It was determined that the children’s home had inconsistent access to water and electric, and the parents were involved in truancy issues with the school district regarding Andrea’s poor attendance record. There was also a history of missed medical and dental appointments for the children. The children were separated and placed in the care of two resource families. The CASA advocate met with all of the children first to determine their needs. Within the first week of being assigned to the case, the advocate had met with everyone involved. The father worked full-time and wasn’t involved in the litigation as much as the mother, who, along with the named issues for the referral, was also taking part in a step-down methadone clinic. When she met with the mother, she realized that despite the large obstacles, there was so much potential for this family to be repaired and directed the mom to contact the Family Strengthening Network (FSN) to allow her time to focus on the children while the family advocate worked to aid the mother in repairing her broken life. The CASA advocate went beyond the average responsibilities of an advocate and attended the doctor’s visits with the children, stayed late in the evening to assist Andrea with her homework, and took the time to truly observe the children’s environments so she could fully grasp the nature of their needs. Meanwhile, the family advocate from FSN worked with mom on two major goals: Finding independent housing for her and her children and obtain her GED. Between the advocates showing that a bright future was truly within reach, their support, and mom’s dedication, mom was able to accomplish her two goals, in addition to moving forward to set more. There were a few setbacks as mom is also a recovering addict, and would at times feel defeated and miss a few appointments. But, with that being said, the support system never wavered. Her children’s CASA advocate was consistently there reporting the children’s progress and their desire to be reunited with their mom. At the final hearing, the judge took a moment as he was closing and personally thanked the CASA advocate for her indefinite dedication to the children and their future with their family. The children came home that afternoon to a new home and new life. The advocate remains in contact with the family and reports that they have recently added a pet to the family to celebrate mom’s new job at a local dental office.
CASA Child Sarah
Three years ago, CASA of CGS received a referral to provide an advocate for an 11-year-old girl who had lost both of her biological parents. Sarah’s father had committed suicide by taking a gun and fatally wounding himself while Sarah was in the next room. Her mother had been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and passed away six months later. Sarah had been removed from a foster home and placed into the home of one of her father’s friends nearly two hours from the county in which her case was being heard. The CASA advocate drove, faithfully, every two weeks to visit Sarah and would keep her company while she jumped on the trampoline, talked about friends at school, and reflected on life. Sarah truly enjoyed singing and eventually worked up the nerve to sing in front of her advocate. Despite the tragedies she had faced at such a young age, she was mature, bubbly, and level-headed. The CASA recognized that Sarah had quite a bit of potential and recommended her for the First Star Rowan Academy.
The program is designed to prepare foster youth for college by offering a four-week college immersion summer program on the Rowan University campus, in addition to monthly meetings with the children and their families on campus. Sarah’s CASA advocate also attended the monthly meetings at Rowan and continued to visit Sarah at her home, despite the two-hour drive. Sarah often detailed the sadness she felt while in the previous resource home and desperately wanted other resource parents to know that when a child comes into their care, no matter how long their stay would be, they need the parents to provide them with affection. She explained that it’s a very lonely position to be in and truly wanted someone to wrap their arms around her and tell her it would be okay, even if it wasn’t. Sarah’s final placement with her father’s friend proved to be a perfect match. Her adoption was finalized in July and, through broken words, told her advocate that at times, when her adoptive father would speak, he would sound just like her late father. Sarah went on to successfully complete the first summer session and continues to participate in the program with her adoptive father and extended family.
CASA Child Daniel
Daniel was 10 days old when he was removed from his mother’s care and placed into a resource home. The mother was homeless, addicted to prescription pills, and suffered from mental illness. Daniel’s father was named nearly a year after litigation began and was provided an opportunity to have visitation with his son. The father resided in a small apartment with a roommate, wasn’t working, but stated that he received a little over $200 in assistance from the state. The judge ordered that a CASA be assigned to Daniel to ensure all of his needs were being met.
While Daniel was being cared for appropriately in his resource home, his visits with his father weren’t going as well. The dad harbored a lot of anger toward the mom and would often have violent outbursts any time she was discussed. His visitation was supervised by the Division and he declined to take part in each drug screen. The CASA advocate met with Daniel at his resource home every week and also attended the supervised visits with dad to observe the interaction between the two. The biological mom stopped appearing for hearings, evaluations, and visits and her whereabouts were unknown.
The CASA advocate noticed that Daniel needed some help with his speech, so she recommended that he be tested for Early Intervention. He was approved for the services and began speech therapy once a week during the father’s visitation at DCP&P. It was reported to CASA that the father would not allow the resource family to take part in any of the therapy sessions with Daniel. The advocate was concerned that Daniel wouldn’t make progress because the family he lived with were not educated on the exercises he needed. She thoroughly prepared her report to the court and included the recommendation that the resource family be involved in Daniel’s therapy sessions for speech.
The change was unanimously agreed upon by all counsel. The advocate also recommended that the Division move forward with the adoption process to provide Daniel with the permanency he was becoming accustomed to. Dad had not complied with any of the court-ordered drug tests, but had tested positive for cocaine in a test provided by his probation officer. He stopped showing up for his visitations and court hearings, ultimately voluntarily terminating his parental rights. For four years, the family waited to adopt this little boy. Their day finally came this past September. Because of his loving resource family and supportive CASA advocate, Daniel has a forever home, along with the services he needed to thrive.
CASA Advocate Jean P.
CASA volunteer Jean was assigned to a case involving four children that had been open for three years, who were all placed with their paternal aunt. The children had entered the system because of the deplorable and dangerous conditions in which they had been living.
When the authorities arrived to remove the children, one child was found lying in feces; the house was also suspected to be the scene of prostitution and drug related activities. The original plan was for the children to eventually return to the care of their mother, but she consistently failed to obtain a safe home for her children or to hold down a job.
The aunt who was caring for the children was very young and had two children of her own, making her uncertain as to whether or not she could continue to support them. CASA Jean knew that it would be in the children’s best interest not to be split up into different homes, and that being adopted by their loving aunt would be the best outcome for them.
The children had been having overnight visits with their biological mother, but it soon became apparent that there was an ongoing problem with domestic violence between the mother and father. The oldest daughter also told the CASA that she had allegedly been physically abused by her mother, among other things. Working with other parties to the case, the advocate was able to determine that some of the girl’s claims were false. Knowing that the girl had a problem telling the truth and that she had undoubtedly witnessed the domestic violence between her parents, Jean felt that the girl was in need of some counseling to resolve any issues her past family life had caused her.
The aunt was struggling to make ends meet and supervise her four nieces and nephews. CASA Jean knew the aunt would need some form of assistance if she was going to be able to adopt the children.
In only sixteen months, advocate Jean was able to move this case towards permanency. With the CASA’s help, the aunt was able to find community summer programs for the children as well as utilities assistance, making it much easier for the aunt to provide for her own children and for her nieces and nephews.
Advocate Jean also made several recommendations to the court. She recommended that the overnight visits cease, with only supervised visits between the biological mother and the children to continue. She also recommended that the oldest daughter receive counseling through Robin’s Nest or Perform Care. Finally, she recommended that all of the children be adopted by their aunt, who, thanks to the CASA, was now financially secure enough to do it. Proceedings have begun to terminate the parental rights so that the aunt can adopt. All of the children are currently thriving.
CASA Advocate Denise A.
Advocate Denise A., was appointed to a Family in Cumberland County in October of 2007. The case originally started with the involvement of the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), when it was reported that the children were being locked in a room and other instances of neglect. The children were in foster care when Denise was assigned to the case.
This family of five had layers of problems that needed to be addressed. The parents were on a verge of a divorce the two girls (ages 5 and 8) were withdrawn and having problems in school and the one son (age 13) had extreme behavior problems. On several occasions he was found wandering outside in the middle of the night. The son was later hospitalized in Bridgeton hospital Psychiatric unit for three months for out of control behavior and for threatening and hitting his sisters. He was later placed in an appropriate residential facility.
Denise got right involved with meeting with the family and making a slew of recommendations to address many of their issues for example marriage counseling, family counseling, and by January the children were placed back at home with their biological parents and their son was getting the specialized treatment that he needed.
The eldest daughter was having a great deal of trouble at school being teased and talked about because her foster parent worked at the school that she attended. Mom kept her home to home school her because she did not want to go back there. Denise advocated for her to be moved to a neighboring school that was the same distance from her home and this would give her a fresh new start in the fall. When mom made the first request it was denied, but Denise made the recommendation to the court and she received the approval from the Superindent for her to start school in the fall with transportation.
Mom and Dad are working together and have researched information about their son’s condition and now he is able to come home on weekend visits. His summer visit is going so well he is going to be home for 15 days with hopes of him being home permanently with in home services and respite care.
Denise put in so much time researching every service possible that the family needed. What a difference she made in this case.
CASA Advocate Jackie T.
When advocate Jackie T. was assigned her first case it was one that all eyes were on.
The family consists of four Russian born children, adopted by a local family. They are all currently in foster care due to substantiated abuse, both verbal and physical. The death of one of the boy’s fraternal twin brought the case to the attention of DYFS and the Court. The cause of death was determined to be from blunt trauma to the head. The fatal force was reportedly at the hands of the adopted mother. She was convicted and remains incarcerated for that crime. Later the adoptive father and grandmother were also incarcerated for abuse towards the children and conspiracy to commit murder.
The children were placed in two separate resource homes in two different counties. Jackie jumped right in and saw the lack of trust that the children were experiencing. She has got involved with each one and worked on an individual plan for them. The plans include: recommendations for special therapy camps, work towards getting their birth certificates through INS, and arranging out of district education keeping all siblings together which during adjustment.
One of the girls had a hard time adjusting to her placement and had to be placed in a special therapeutic resource home. She was going on the first camping trip and really was apprehensive about going. Jackie drove 60 miles every weekend for three weeks straight to visit her and help her to adjust.
Today the sons are going to be adopted in a wonderful home. The younger daughter has been placed in a permanent home under Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG). The eldest daughter is getting ready to turn 18 and Jackie is helping her make college plans and making sure that she receives services until she is 21.
Jackie has been the one constant person in the lives of these four children for over a year. She has attended every meeting and several special events regarding the children, including birthday parties.
To date the Judge has accepted every recommendation that she has made to help this family of children.