CASA Story: Amanda & Jenni

by | Jul 12, 2023 | Stories

Disclaimer: In blog stories with CASA children, names, details, and photos have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Jenni was 13 years old and living in a residential treatment center with other teens when she met her Court Appointed Special Advocate, Amanda, for the first time. During weekly visits both on and off campus, Jenni barely spoke to Amanda. Sometimes the two of them would sit inside Wendy’s over a Frosty in silence. At the end of each visit, Amanda assured Jenni that she would be back the next week. Jenni would just shrug her shoulders and sigh.

During those early months, Amanda pored over Jenni’s case file. She discovered that Jenni and her younger brother had been removed from their parents many times, but this time their parents’ rights had been terminated. When Amanda talked to the caseworker, the school counselor, and Jenni’s attorney, she learned that Jenni had suffered unimaginable abuse. In addition, because of Jenni’s extreme behavioral challenges, she had to leave the foster home where she and her brother had been staying – a home where they thought they might live forever, together.

Amanda quickly realized that Jenni had experienced significant trauma in her young life, and that was likely why she was so reluctant to trust adults. Amanda resolved to be a faithful, consistent presence in Jenni’s life, and eventually, after almost a year of visits, Jenni finally started talking.

Jenni appreciated Amanda’s consistency, but their interactions weren’t always pleasant. Sometimes Amanda had to say things that were hard for Jenni to hear, and Jenni reacted like any teenager would. Other times, after an outing, Jenni would become irate when it was time to return to the residential campus. Whenever that happened, Amanda would pull over to the side of the road and wait for Jenni to calm down.

After Jenni’s brother was adopted by the foster family who had cared for both of them, Jenni was especially despondent. To make matters worse, two other families who had considered adopting Jenni changed their minds. Jenni started repeating to Amanda, “I am bad. That’s why no one loves me.”

During this difficult time, Amanda continued visiting Jenni weekly. She wanted to show Jenni that someone cared for her and loved her. One time, the pair went shopping together. As Amanda handed Jenni shoes to try on, Jenni said, “Thanks, mom.” Recognizing that Jenni was voicing her overwhelming desire to have a mom, Amanda didn’t flinch and said, “You’re welcome.”

Amanda continued to advocate for a permanent home for Jenni, knowing that she longed for a family. The caseworker had the same goal. Unexpectedly, another family, thoroughly trained in caring for children who have experienced trauma, expressed wanting to adopt Jenni, and Jenni moved into their home. She challenged these parents, at least at first, to test their love for her. But they remained consistent, assuring Jenni that they would be her forever family.

Recently, at the age of 16, Jenni was finally adopted. She has the mother she hoped for, as well as a father and two younger siblings. She pierced her ears, plays on the volleyball team, wears clothes that she loves, and is getting As and Bs in school. She’s a typical teenager and is hopeful about her future.

Jenni is still in touch with Amanda. The two talk on the phone, Facetime, and Snapchat – sometimes even watching a movie or TV show together and texting throughout. Recently, when discussing her CASA case, Amanda said, “Jenni will probably be in my life forever.” That’s the power of a committed CASA.

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