I don’t often receive correspondence directly from judges, but on May 2, 2023 at 10:55 pm, a family court judge emailed with the subject line “Help!” The message opened with, “Can I get a CASA for another case, please?!!” Clearly, this judge was concerned about the children, a sibling group of six.
Disclaimer: In blog stories with CASA children, names, details, and photos have been changed to protect confidentiality.
At just 12 years old, Emma* had already experienced extensive grief and trauma. After Emma lost her mother as a toddler, her father was her primary caregiver. In 2021, however, he was arrested, found guilty, and incarcerated due to child abuse against another child. Once again, Emma lost a home and a parent she loved, and she faced an uncertain future. The judge knew that Emma would benefit from the advocacy of a CASA volunteer and requested one be assigned as soon as possible.
Amy, a newly sworn-in CASA, was quick to take Emma’s case. When Amy met Emma for the first time, she saw a bright and intelligent child who was resilient despite the loss she had experienced. They began visiting weekly, Amy picking Emma up from school on Friday afternoons and taking her to do fun activities like getting ice cream or going to local museums.
Amy noticed that Emma mentioned a few times that she “didn’t have a mom” and didn’t know anyone on her mom’s side of the family. These comments stood out to Amy because she knew that Emma valued family. Amy reached out to Emma’s foster care caseworker and asked if there was anything she could do to help the situation. The caseworker suggested that Amy do some investigating and try to connect with any of Emma’s maternal family members, even though they had been estranged from Emma for years.
Amy quickly got to work and found Emma’s mother’s obituary online. From there, she discovered the names of some family members and messaged them on Facebook. Emma’s maternal family was excited to hear about her, and in the summer of 2022, they gathered for a meeting with her team to discuss how they might arrange a meeting and become involved in Emma’s life. It was determined that Emma would meet one family member to start, so as not to overwhelm her.
Recently, Emma met her maternal aunt! The meeting went well, and Emma was happy to feel more connected to her mom. Emma is looking forward to seeing her aunt again, and they have plans to paint together, an activity they both enjoy.
While Emma’s court case is still open, she is benefiting from the advocacy of her CASA, Amy, who is helping her build emotional resilience and establish important connections with her family members. These family connections provide Emma with a sense of belonging that will positively affect her for the rest of her life.
*Names and details have been changed for confidentiality.
This article is part of the Spring 2023 edition of CASA Connect, CASA of Kent County’s quarterly newsletter. Click here to view a pdf version of this newsletter.
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.
Sometimes, CASA volunteers work together in pairs – especially for larger sibling groups like the Williams children, where there is a significant amount of information to gather. CASAs April and Eliza are currently advocating for the group of five siblings. With so many children to visit and observe, it is helpful to split the responsibilities between two advocates.
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