A Young Man’s Most Treasured Things by Cheryl Reed

A story by Cheryl Reed CASA of the Coastal Bend CASA Volunteer.

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Above, Cheryl Reed, volunteer with CASA of the Coastal Bend (TX), shares the story of John, a child who suffered years of neglect by a drug-addicted mother and physical abuse by her boyfriends before finding a safe, permanent home.

When I first met John he was 12 years old and had just entered foster care. He and his four siblings had been homeless. He and his twin took turns taking care of the two youngest so that each could go to school every other day.

While in state care, John was moved 15 times in two years. A child used to no rules was forced into strange houses, three hospitals, emergency care facilities and residential treatment centers in five different cities.

John watched as his siblings found permanent homes: An aunt took custody of his older brother and twin sister, but not him. His little sister and brother were adopted. But not John. A foster home where he and his younger siblings were placed kept his siblings but told CPS to pick John up. Relatives promised to visit but didn’t. A foster dad kept him two days and returned him….

John carried my crumpled CASA business card in his back pocket. When I visited him, he would retrieve it and proudly tell me, “I still have your card.” I was the only continuity in his life as I consistently and adamantly advocated for him.

While I struggled to find permanency for John, he deteriorated, growing angry, combative and aggressive. He broke his own arm hitting a wall. He was put on five medications. He saw bugs in his food and heard voices. He refused to eat.

After exhausting possibility after possibility for permanency, John finally got the home he deserved. Rafaela, his great aunt, wanted to be his mother. Single, working full time, she already had three children. But John needed her and that was enough. John was taken off all medications save one, and his once slim frame bloomed with a healthy 30 pound gain. Rafaela says that to this day she has never been called to the school concerning any aggressive behavior.

It has been almost four years since the close of this case and just last week I saw John and he told me a secret. He has a special box where he keeps his most treasured things. In it is a crumpled CASA business card. The same one that I gave him six years ago….

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Seven Siblings in Need of a Voice

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Camilla (age 15), Charles (age 14), Clarissa (age 10), Carlos (age 8), Chad (age 4), Candace (age 2) and Claudia (age 8 months) have been waiting for a CASA volunteer since January of this year. Their mother has had a long history of drug abuse, with Claudia being born positive for cocaine and amphetamines. There was not running water in the home when the children were placed in foster care. Child Protective Services has been involved with the family off and on since Camilla was about 3 years old. All of the children have suffered from long-term neglect and mistreatment. The older children were often left to care for the younger children, with Camilla tending to her siblings’ basic needs when she was just 5 years old. Due to the number of siblings and their varying needs, the children have been split up across 5 different placements.

These siblings have been on the waiting list for a CASA for 8 months. As of September 9, 2014, they are just 7 of 57 children who are waiting for a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interests. Every day these children go without a CASA is another day that they do not have someone to keep them from falling through the cracks of the over-burdened child welfare system. Inquire about volunteering today.

 

Note: Demographic characteristics such as name, age and sex have been changed to protect identity. Photos do not depict the actual children.

 

 

Lift her voice