Ken and Tessa became volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates in the spring of 2018. Soon after swearing-in, the married couple decided to take on a group of four siblings and advocate for them together as a team. Their timing could not have been better as siblings Zane, Isaac, Serina and Maria entered foster care that same spring and CASAs Ken and Tessa were able to jump in and become steady and safe adults on the case from the beginning.
At the time of their removal, Zane was 10 years-old, Isaac 7, Serina 5, and Maria 2. The four children had been alternatively living between their grandparents’ house, and with their mom and dad. Ongoing reports concerning physical neglect and child-endangerment had put the family on the radar of local Child Protective Services. The four siblings were removed from the care of their biological parents after Child Protective Services found the youngest children in the care of their mother, father, and aunt, all of whom had been using methamphetamine and alcohol while supervising the kids. Additional reports of domestic violence going on in the home between their parents added another layer concern for the safety of the children.
The grandparents’ house had been a safe place for the kids to go through their young lives, and fortunately they were able to be placed with them right away instead of going into an unfamiliar home. Managing four small children full time was no small challenge, especially while juggling visitations with parents, attending court hearings, getting the kids to school, daycare, and their doctor appointments. Things quickly became overwhelming for the grandparents. On top of all these obligations, the grandparents needed to go through foster care training to become licensed to receive financial assistance from the state for all the kids. The CASAs began to visit the kids regularly and got to know the children on an individual basis, beginning to paint a picture of each child’s unique needs and wants. They also met with the biological parents who were working with Child Protective Services to address their substance abuse and ongoing domestic violence.
Right away, Zane and Isaac, the two oldest children, began to struggle in school and had frequent emotional outbursts throughout the day, interrupting their studies and their ability to have healthy friendships with other students. The CASAs began to meet with the boys’ teachers, counselors, and school administrators to figure out a plan to help the boys regulate their behavior and emotions throughout the school day. Together, they came up with a set of goals for the boys with rewards for achieved milestones. When the boys both successfully went a certain number of days without having disruptive and emotional outbursts in class, their reward was to have lunch with the school principal and their CASAs. Slowly, the boys, with the help of their teachers, counselors, grandparents, and CASAs, began to find healthy and appropriate ways of expressing their stress and their feelings. The CASAs were also able to advocate for the two younger girls, Serina and Maria. As Serina started school, Ken and Tessa made sure that she had the support and services she needed to transition into this new environment. They also brought Serina’s ongoing need for speech therapy to address a speech impediment to the attention of the court. Ken and Tessa played an important role in getting two-year-old Maria into a daycare program where she could be around kids her own age and help give the grandparents some much needed time off during the day.
Throughout this time, the CASAs were a steady and positive influence on the case. They persevered through countless court hearings, meetings with social workers, education meetings and doctor appointments. They encouraged and helped the grandparents become licensed foster parents so they could receive financial assistance from the courts and become a long-term option for the kids. Even when the case was frustrating or challenging, Ken and Tessa kept the children at the center of everything, maintaining a healthy relationship with the kids and shielding them from the stresses of the case. The influence and support that these Advocates contributed to this case was invaluable. Not only were they safe and stable adults for Zane, Isaac, Serina and Maria, but they also modeled a healthy and respectful relationship for the siblings in a time when that was very much lacking in their lives. The grandparents were incredible advocates for the children as well, insisting that their mom was not allowed to visit if she was not completely sober and staying committed to keeping the kids safe.
As the kids approach the end of their third year in foster care, their case is finally closing with a positive outcome. With the support and advocacy of the CASAs on the case, the grandparents have been granted permanent guardianship for all four of the kids. The kids are thriving in their grandparents’ home and have been able to maintain a positive relationship with the biological parents, despite their continued struggle with substance abuse and instability in their own lives. The grandparents allow both the mother and father to visit the children as regularly as they want, provided they are sober and safe when visiting. Finally, after three years of uncertainty and instability, the four siblings have a safe and permanent home with their grandparents, and they continue to have a positive relationship with Ken and Tessa who are no longer their CASAs officially but are now considered lasting friends of the family.