CASA Story #1: Josh Kelchner
Before Josh and his younger siblings were taken into foster care, Josh Kelchner played parent to his sisters and brother while his mother succumbed to drug and alcohol addictions. After the children were taken into foster care, Josh did everything he could to try to keep his family together. But it almost wasn't enough.
CASA Story #2: Dashun Jackson
As a boy, my three sisters and I suffered about every form of abuse you can imagine. When I was 13, we were all removed from our home. After that, I bounced around, from a children’s emergency shelter to an aunt’s house, then back to the shelter. Without knowledge or the power to speak up, I felt like a victim. A year and a half later, I met my CASA volunteer. And everything changed.
CASA Story #3: Laura
CASA Story #4: Neitz
Just under 4 years ago I became the CASA for a group of 4 siblings. Despite only ranging in age from 3 to 9 years old they already had been removed from and returned to the custody of their parents multiple times. They had witnessed domestic violence, been physically abused, had little supervision by their parents, witnessed substance abuse, and lived in squalid conditions among other things. This most recent removal from the home had already lasted about a year when I started working with them.
The case was very complex from the beginning and not just because of the lengthy history. Their was only one father involved but there were two mothers and a maternal grandmother. Additionally another child was born extremely prematurely about 6 months after I became involved and immediately joined her siblings in their foster home. The maternal grandmother maintained a relationship with her grandson but an attempt to take custody of him proved more than she could manage. One of the mothers ultimately decided that despite loving him deeply she couldn’t be the parent her son needed and voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. This left only one mother and one father and the county petitioned to terminate their parental rights not long after I became involved but still for a variety of reasons it would take years for the court process to play out.
I immediately felt a connection with the children who were loving and playful despite their history. They each had a strong personality but formed a close knit unit to protect and support one another. The children had time to build a good relationship with a few of the caseworkers assigned to them but over time they came and went while I stayed by their sides. I promised them when I met them that I’d be there until they were out of the system and as the other faces came and went my bond with them became stronger. I also became the only person who knew much of the history of the case from first hand experience and not from reading their files.
Luckily the children only had 2 foster placements while I knew them and were able to stay together. The first placement was a family who wanted to adopt them if they didn’t go back to their biological parents and it was hard when they had to be moved. The second family did an amazing job with them but they knew from the start that they couldn’t stay there forever. Around the time that they made that move they got 2 new caseworkers who stayed with them through the their adoption. I had worked well with other workers but the three of us really became a team and relied on one another to do what the others couldn’t and each play a different role so the children had all the support we could give them.
By the time that the all of the parental rights were finally terminated the children were increasingly anxious to be in a “forever family”. We were concerned that finding a family that was a good fit and could meet the needs of all of the children would be extremely difficult. Amazingly in a series of unlikely events a family who currently lives in North Carolina but had previously lived in the area and fostered on of the children as an infant became aware that they were available to be adopted. They immediately decided they wanted to adopt the children and happily included the youngest child when they were told about her addition to the family. The family was everything we wanted for the children and some things we didn’t even think to wish for as well. They did everything they could to build a relationship with the children and get to the point that the children could go home with them as quickly as possible. They have been amazing in making a home for and supporting the children through the process of coming together as a family. It was a process to get the interstate adoption accomplished but, when the day finally came, their new extended family all surrounded the children having made the long trip to be a part of their adoption day. In that moment every minute of the last 4 years fell away and I felt grateful to have been a part of a story that may have been long and painful at times but ended better than I ever could have imagined it would.