CASA Kids and Volunteers
CASA cases may involve infants with broken bones and head injuries, toddlers living in unsanitary conditions, second graders who disclose unspeakable sexual offenses, fifth graders who have to repeat the grade due to excessive absences, pregnant junior high students who have been prostituted by their mother, and teenagers whose parents refuse to provide a stable home for them. There’s no such thing as a typical case and no such thing as a typical CASA volunteer. Retired educators, business leaders, full time administrative assistants, part-time accountants, and stay-at-home moms give of their time and energies to try to ensure that the best interest of the child, no matter the history and no matter the dearth of permanency options, remains at the forefront in the minds of those involved in the cases. Please visit the following stories to learn more about the impact a CASA volunteer can have on the lives of a child and the impact a child can have on our CASA volunteers.
Please note that in order to protect the confidentiality of the children and families our CASA volunteers serve, names and photographs are not reflective of the actual children and families with which we have worked. In addition, some identifying facts may have been altered to protect the identities of the children and their families. Although the names, faces, and some facts may have changed, their stories are real and have occurred in Maury County and throughout the United States.
By the time Ruby was 6 years old, she already knew what it was like to live out of a car. When her CASA volunteer Donna visited Ruby’s grandmother’s home from which she had been removed, it was so cluttered. There was literally nowhere for Donna to sit. Donna followed Ruby through almost 2 years of foster care with the hope that she would be adopted if her parents’ rights were terminated. Unfortunately, Ruby’s foster parents decided not to adopt her when parental rights were terminated. Ruby’s third DCS worker left about the same time her foster family decided not to keep her. However, through this time of great upheaval and uncertainty for Ruby, Donna and Ruby remained connected. Donna continued to search for a loving home for Ruby. After Donna’s exhaustive search, Ruby found a loving home willing to adopt her. Ruby’s CASA volunteer Donna eagerly transported Ruby to her new adoptive home along with Ruby’s clothes and toys. Ruby has been happily adopted for two years now.
At 13-years-old, Stanley currently resides in a residential treatment facility to address his history of sexual abuse, abandonment, multiple childhood disruptions, and resulting emotional struggles. One of five children, he is the only one of his siblings who has not been adopted. Because of his siblings’ placements with other families, Stanley has lost contact with the only family he has ever truly known. Since entering state custody, he has had 8 placements, 7 schools, 4 DCS caseworkers, 8 therapists, 3 guardians ad litem, but only 1 CASA volunteer. He desperately needs a loving family committed to participating in his therapy, preparing to help him meet the challenges of adolescence, and supporting him as he reintegrates into the community. Please contact the CASA office if you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a foster or adoptive family for Stanley or another child like him.
Having come to Maury County from Michigan by way of California, CASA Volunteer Shirley has an ability to work with even the most difficult parents. She has that rare ability to be able to tell them what they need to hear whether they like it or not. Compassionate, creative, and determined, Shirley once developed a visitation plan unlike anything the juvenile court judge had seen during his tenure on the bench. In one of her cases, she advocated for a young child Chris who had been seriously beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. Shirley picked up Chris’s favorite toy from a relative and took the toy to the hospital ICU so that Chris would have something familiar if/when he recovered from the coma. Thankfully, Chris did recover and he has now been adopted. Shirley maintains contact with Chris and his forever family.
Kelly has not been protected from her mother’s boyfriends. At fourteen years old, Kelly is only a child herself. After being sexually abused by one of her mother’s boyfriends, she recently gave birth to a baby boy, Nicholas, who has special needs. Kelly can’t even pronounce the medical syndrome from which Nicholas suffers. Kelly wants to go to junior high school, to play soccer, to go to slumber parties, and maybe someday to be invited to the prom – to just be a normal teenager. However, she has never known normalcy. And now, she must be a mother to Nicholas even though she knows little about parenting herself. Kelly’s own mother has 5 other children to rear so it’s not realistic for Kelly to expect assistance from her mom. Nicholas’s father has been deported after felony convictions were upheld. So he too can offer no assistance in rearing this medically fragile child. Kelly and Nicholas are both in foster care. They are fortunate to have a CASA volunteer who is well-versed in the baby’s special medical needs and the extraordinary care raising Nicholas will require. Kelly tells her CASA volunteer that she wants to surrender her parental rights to Nicholas. Until Kelly understands what she’s doing and knowingly surrenders her rights, CASA volunteers must look after Kelly – a child who has been the victim of abuse herself but is now faced with the task of caring for her own special needs child – and after Nicholas – an innocent child born to a teenage mother with little family support.
Their parents have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, and financial struggles. However, a number of positive things happened that made it possible for the four siblings to return home. The parents sought and completed substance abuse rehabilitation and are following their aftercare program. The children were placed in a foster home with foster parents very adept at working with biological families. The foster mother mentored the biological mother, teaching parenting skills, budgeting skills, and planning skills so that she can better manage the family dynamics. The CASA volunteer worked with the school system to get educational testing and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place for Tristan who has special learning challenges. The father received a small but very fortuitous inheritance that allowed the family to get out from under their financial stressors. With the stressors that triggered the domestic violence situation at least diminished and the parents having completed domestic violence counseling, there is hope and the expectation that the family is better equipped to provide a safe and permanent home now that the children are returned to their care. Six months after case closure, the family is still intact, and the children are reported to be safe and doing well.
CASA volunteer Rick and his wife had some medical problems, but he continued to be a strong advocate for Ben, the teen boy for whom he advocates. When Rick heard that Ben had a difficult setback in his permanency plan, Rick immediately sprung into action. The foster parents Rick had hoped would adopt Ben chose not to make him a permanent member of their family. Ben was devastated by this rejection. Even while working two jobs and managing a lot of health care appointments, Rick made time to visit Ben in his residential treatment facility to encourage him to make good decisions for himself, apply himself to his school work, and chose behaviors that will support his placement in a foster home so that he can return to living in the community. Rick showed Ben that he was there for him no matter what.
On the first night Casey was in his new foster home, the family had pizza for dinner. On the second night, they had noodles. The next day, Casey’s foster mother Mrs. Campbell found the pizza box and Tupperware container of noodles under Casey’s bed. You see, Casey is not used to there being “plenty” to eat . . . so he has to make sure he has a plan for when he’s hungry. He was saving the leftovers in case there would come a day when there wasn’t enough food for Casey at the Campbells’ house. The Campbells have shown Casey the refrigerator and pantry full of food . . . He’s delighted and amazed . . . but he still worries. So the Campbells have provided a snack box for his bedside table just so he won’t worry about what he will eat. Now, for a change, there’s “plenty” for Casey to eat.