CASA volunteer Julia could hardly believe it. After years of denial, the mother on Julia’s case began realizing that she needed to change, acknowledging that she had been responsible for her children’s placement into foster care. She frequently called the family counselor for support on how to set boundaries appropriately. She lost significant weight that had once prevented her from climbing the stairs to supervise her children.
Flashback several years to when the oldest brother of her five young children was sexually abusing all of his siblings. Upstairs, unsupervised by their mother, the brother also taught his siblings how to climb out of the window and sit on the steep roof. Eventually the mother was arrested for criminal activity. The four younger children were placed into foster care, and the oldest child started sex offender treatment and went to live with a relative.
Julia was appointed to be the four children’s CASA volunteer. The two youngest, Sara (age 5) and Aiden (age 6), were adopted together into a loving home. Marcus (age 9) and Andrew (age 11) made it clear they did not want to be adopted, and remained in foster care for several years.
During this time, Julia cultivated professional relationships with the parents, foster parents, caseworker, counselors, teachers, and attorneys. Once the professionals got to know Julia and trust her, they shared important facts that Julia incorporated into her advocacy to the court. She developed strong relationships with the children, and they shared their thoughts and feelings with her. Julia strove to be as honest as possible with the kids, believing that if a child was old enough to ask hard questions like, “Why can’t I live with my mom?”, he was old enough to receive a serious, honest answer phrased in terms he could understand.
The first foster parents that Marcus and Andrew lived with gave the boys Benadryl every night to put them to sleep. When this was discovered, the home was quickly closed. Marcus and Andrew were moved to a new home where they lived for the next four years. Julia worked successfully to support the foster placement so the brothers would not have to endure any more moves and would be able to remain together.
As the mother continued to refuse to take responsibility, Julia believed reunification with their mother would never be possible for Marcus and Andrew. But the mother surprised everyone. She began working intensively with a family counselor, and eventually recognized that she had to change in order to create a safe and stable environment. In time, both Marcus and Andrew returned home to her care.
The mother later told Julia, “I knew that you were the one I had to convince that I could be safe.” She saw that Julia had her heels dug in deeper than anyone else to protect the boys. But everyone, including Julia, was supportive of the reunification. The family continues to access the support services they need, and is doing well together.
NOTE: The children’s story is real, but their names and picture have been changed to protect their identities.