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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corinna Byler was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in 2015 and currently serves as a volunteer Peer Coordinator.