By Ashika Sethi
A grandmother left without a home, a family's life put on hold, and a teenager stranded. These are the stories all too familiar to those affected by Hurricane Harvey just a year ago, some of them kids that CASA serves.
On August 25, 2017, Texas was ravaged by a storm with devastation that nobody saw coming. Thousands of homes in the state and along the Gulf Coast were ruined, affecting over 13 million people and displacing close to 39,000 of those affected, according to the balance. About 37,000 people were displaced in Texas alone.
Weathering a storm like Hurricane Harvey is stressful and devastating for everyone affected by it. It can be even more devastating for youth involved in the child welfare system.
Katle Olse, Executive Director of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, spoke with the Texas Tribune last year after the hurricane. “We know that capacity is a real issue and if you were a family that was in the pipeline to become a foster family and you just lost everything, you might put your plans to become a foster parent on hold to rebuild your home,” Olse said.
For the families in the pipeline to become foster homes and family or fictive kin undergoing the adoption process, Hurricane Harvey was a major setback.
Take, for instance, one grandmother who was in the process of adopting her two grandsons to whom we were appointed to. The licensing process was already underway until the storm hit and she lost her entire house and belongings. Since the grandmother and the two boys were displaced, the whole adoption process had to be put on hold until they could find stable housing. CASA was there to help this grandmother get back on her feet and helped cover some of the costs for her new housing arrangement. As of today, the adoption process is still pending but moving forward once again.
When a natural disaster hits, child advocates spring into action. At CASA of Travis County, we make it a point to check up on youth who may have been affected after a storm or major disaster event. After Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas, CASA was there to check on the youth we served in foster homes and shelters in affected areas, finding out where kids were moved and what help they needed. We tried to supply youth and placements with basic necessities like clothing, toiletries and food, or bring in resources from other organizations providing those basics. As a last resort, CASA sets aside a small portion of our overall budget each year for meeting children’s specific needs. These funds ensure youth are getting their basic needs like food, shelter and clothing met, as well as provide for the occasional special gift or activity, but they are meant to be used as a last resort after all other options are exhausted, or in a situation of urgency. After the hurricane, we were able to put these funds to work immediately helping folks like the grandmother and two boys as well as a teen boy we serve.
This teen boy, Tyler*, was all too familiar with the devastation and frenzy that powerful hurricanes cause. After growing up with trauma of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Tyler now found himself in caught in another storm while on a bus ride to Houston to see his parents for a scheduled visit. Since the water levels were unsafe for the bus to drive on, his placement paid for a hotel for Tyler to ride out the storm. After a few days of not being able to physically reach Tyler because of flooded roads, and Tyler’s placement running out of money to support him, CASA stepped in to cover the cost of Tyler’s hotel and food. Tyler’s CASA volunteer and supervisor were in touch with him every day until the roads were safe enough for him catch a bus ride home. Without CASA and our emergency fund, Tyler might have been stranded in Houston with no money to pay for a hotel and no food to sustain himself.
When a storm rages, natural or metaphorical, child advocates need to be on the call to ensure all children are being accounted for and have the advocacy they need. In order for kids in foster care to weather a storm, we as CASA need to be standing by with open arms and a helping hand.
We need your support to ensure every child has a CASA volunteer who can help them when they’re braving storms. We appreciate the donors who ensure we have CASA volunteers for kids as well as provide children with basic necessities at crucial moments. You can donate to support CASA’s efforts on our Donation page.
*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of our clients.
August 2018 Advocacy Current Events