When I signed on the dotted line, little did I know that ” I pledge to serve as the “one constant” for the child, assisting with all transitions until the child receives permanency” would lead me to still advocating for his wishes and well-being six years later.

What has not been consistent during his years in foster care:

  • He has changed schools 6 times.
  • His judge has changed.
  • His attorney has changed.
  • His social worker has changed, although his current social worker has been on his case for 4 years.
  • His placement has changed 5 times.
  • His therapists have changed multiple times.
  • His “dad” has changed.
  • His birth mom is far from consistent.

As his Court Appointed Special Advocate, I have been proud to serve as his “one constant.”

  • I have followed him to new placements making sure he is safe and his needs are met.  I also make sure they know he loves everything strawberry including his toothpaste.
  • I have submitted monthly reports and hearing reports to the court and professionals advocating for his permanence, safety, and well-being.
  • I am that returning face that shows up a minimum of once a month but usually more.  Usually, he talks, many times over the years he hasn’t.
  • I have attended school programs.  Many times I was the only familiar face to him in the crowd.
  • I have sat through many doctor’s visits.  Just this last week he asked me to sit right next to him as they had to draw blood.
  • I have delivered his personal belongings to various placements when he requested certain items.
  • I have hung on to his MindCraft game and his extra pair of eye glasses so he is certain they will not get lost.
  • He is constantly on my mind.
  • I have consistently participated in court hearings and meetings with other professionals linked to his case.
  • I faithfully deliver his favorite snacks – mini pies, pixie sticks, cheese crackers, anything strawberry, and sushi.
  • With the aid of his social worker, we have constantly searched for a permanent, safe home for him.  Seneca letters (letters generated by a nationwide database used to search for family members willing to provide a stable, loving home for the youth) have been sent out twice.  The recent second attempt has yielded a possible placement.
  • I have sat through in-home therapy sessions, individual therapy sessions, family therapy sessions, and treatment plan review sessions — monitoring progress in hopes of reunifying him with his birth mother.

We have had success along the way usually followed by major setbacks.  I have consistently seen the ravaging effects of chemical dependency coupled with mental illness.  It is heart-wrenching, yet my hope lies in the fact that I am his “one constant.”  He has faced a life full of trauma and pain.  He deserves far more, such as: a permanent safe haven, love, second chances, and consistency.  Maybe, just maybe, over the years, my constant concern is making a difference.  After my most recent visit, he asked if he could give me a hug.  It only took six years.  I would do it all again.

This is only my story.  There are multiple others and no two are alike.  If you are interested in advocating for a foster youth in our community please contact our Yellowstone County CASA office at 406-259-1233.  Or email emily@yellowstonecasa.org.

Corinna Byler was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in 2015 and currently serves as a volunteer Peer Coordinator.