Dec 04 2014
I am so proud to be a CASA volunteer. It is incredibly rewarding work being able to help the most vulnerable children here in Travis County. As a CASA volunteer, my job is to keep children safe. I work hard to get children reunited with family or adopted into loving, permanent homes. Above all, I want a safe home for the child. If you will indulge, I would like to share the story of one such child.
I became Cole’s CASA volunteer when he was nearly a year old. His mom’s drug and alcohol abuse brought him into the Child Protective Services (CPS) system. Cole’s big bright eyes and happy smile capture the heart of all who meet him. It was heartbreaking to think that anyone — especially a parent— would do anything not in Cole’s best interest.
During my training as a CASA volunteer, I learned the importance of placing children with family first. Although initially it did not appear that there was a suitable family member to care for Cole, I spent time building a relationship with Cole’s great-grandmother. She told me about a cousin, Mark, and his wife, LeeAnn, who lived far away but would be interested in caring for Cole. I called them immediately and they were excited about meeting Cole. At first, I had my concerns as Cole was happy at his foster home and he would be many hours away from where I could check on him. Monitoring his well-being would be a challenge from such a distance.
To be absolutely sure they would be good for Cole, I called every relative, friend and clergy I could find, including LeeAnn’s family. Everyone shared positive things about how caring they were. They all assured me they could be a support system for the family too. Mark and LeeAnn drove hours to attend every hearing for Cole. Cole never skipped a beat and fell in love with LeeAnn and Mark as they and their family did with Cole. I now felt sure this was the right place for Cole. Each and every follow up visit was better than the last. Cole was in a loving, safe and nurturing home where he could thrive.
As Cole’s CASA volunteer, I made sure his needs were met and helped him reach a loving home, but my primary concern was always to keep him safe. Today I’m asking you to join me in keeping children like Cole safe by donating to CASA. Will you consider making a tax-deductible gift to ensure that more children have CASA volunteers watching out for them?
For nine months Cole’s mom was happy about her cousin raising him, but then she changed her mind. The court granted her ‘Return and Monitor’ status where Cole would live with her for a while to confirm she could be a good parent before the case was closed.
I wanted to support Cole’s mom if she could turn her life around and care for him, but I was still concerned about his safety.
I would do regular unannounced check-ins at her house an hour outside of Austin. During my visits, I discovered that Cole’s mom was leaving him with unsafe baby-sitters. Social media showed she was still drinking and using drugs. I walked in one day to see Cole with a black eye. I reported all of this to CPS, and he was again removed from this unsafe and violent home.
Cole’s mom got mad at me for reporting her. I told her, “I tried to support you as a parent, but my first and foremost goal is to keep your baby safe.”
Then the mom disappeared and her parental rights were terminated. Cole had now been in the system for over 2 years and I wanted him to have a permanent and safe home as quickly as possible, but there was more work to do.
Mark and LeeAnn immediately stepped in to care for Cole again, but their home needed improvements to meet the requirements of the permanent adoption process. Money was tight, especially now that they were adding a child to their family. I helped them navigate and overcome these financial challenges. I called the people managing the adoption process frequently to check on the process and make sure the family had what they needed.
More than three years after Cole came into the system, the court approved Cole’s adoption by Mark and LeeAnn. While caseworkers, judges and attorneys ad litem were all different throughout the case, I was consistently by his side. Because of CASA, I was the one powerful voice in Cole’s journey always advocating for his safety and helping find him a loving home to give him the bright future he and all children deserve.
I would be incredibly grateful if you would consider a tax-deductible gift to CASA of Travis County today. Your gift will ensure that more children like Cole have CASA volunteers focused on their needs, watching out for their safety and ultimately getting them into loving, permanent homes.
CASA Volunteer since 2010
P.S. I hear from Cole’s new family every once in a while and am happy to know he’s safe and doing well. Please consider giving to CASA and giving a child who’s been abused or neglected the safety and security they desperately need.
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