One story exemplifies the impact that a CASA volunteer had on the decision made for a child. It is about a boy we'll call Gabe.
Gabe had three older half-siblings who had been removed from the home as children and raised by relatives, not their mother. Then along came Gabe, who struggled every day to get what he needed. You see, Gabe’s mother has a severe alcohol and drug addiction problem and often relapsed after months of sobriety. Gabe had been in foster care a couple of times when he was younger, but he was returned to his mother’s home after several months. But things never seemed to stay at a good level for very long. In his thirteen years, Gabe had been through the ordeal of his mother’s addicted behaviors many times. In fact, during Gabe’s life, his mother had been investigated by Child Protection Services eleven times.
Whenever his mother was drinking and drugging, Gabe fended for himself. He went to school infrequently because no one was making sure he got there, and when he was in school, Gabe would not apply himself and would even be disrespectful to others. Gabe often made a meal out of a bowl of cereal with water. He was often hit and yelled at when his mother was out of control. As he got to Middle School age, Gabe would find every excuse to be out of the home, and was often out late at night. Gabe was feeling uncared for and unimportant. He reached out to a relative to see if he could stay with her, and she said that he could if he had his mother’s permission. Knowing that she would say no, Gabe called the police to report his mother the next time that she was passed out from drug use. He had finally had enough of his needs being ignored and of being unimportant to his mother. Gabe became one of our CASA kids when he was once again removed from his mother’s home and placed in the custody of the State.
Social Services placed Gabe with a relative and his mother was charged with severe neglect. Gabe was assigned a CASA volunteer, John. John got to know Gabe very well, and met regularly with him and the others in his life. Early on, Gabe expressed his disbelief that “the system” would help him, but John said, “You’ve never had a CASA volunteer before. I will be speaking for your best interests in court.” Gabe gradually began to hope for a better future.
John met often with Gabe’s mother, but was never able to report to the Court that she was making improvements in her behaviors. John observed many times that Gabe’s mother was inappropriate around Gabe, and John was able to verify the numerous times that Gabe’s mother was arrested for drug use or was at an Emergency Room seeking drugs.
Because of John’s relationship with Gabe, he could report what Gabe’s concerns and wishes were to the Court, and John could support those wishes. John checked with Gabe’s teachers quarterly, and Gabe had improved his school performance greatly while he was living with his relatives. Gabe was adamant that he did not want to return to living with his mother. Because of the reports and verified facts that John was able to report to the judge during the year that this case was in court, the judge was able to determine that Gabe’s best interests would be to remain with his relatives in a Guardianship arrangement. Gabe trusted John to speak for him in court, and John’s reports made all the difference.
John recently saw the relative with whom Gabe is living, and she reported that Gabe continues to do well in school and is involved in some out of school activities, and that Gabe has made many good friends. They said that Gabe is a happy, well-behaved boy.
Most of the children that we have advocated for are younger than Gabe. In fact, most are toddlers or infants who can’t even verbalize what they want. Most of the children don’t really understand what a CASA volunteer is doing for them, but WE know. The work that the CASA volunteers in our program do for these kids is life changing.