Stories

Read about some of the absolutely true stories demonstrating the life-changing difference our Court Appointed Special Advocates are making here in Yellowstone County.

Asher's Story

Asher was removed from his parents’ care for the third time when he was six years old due to physical abuse from his dad, unmet mental health concerns with his mom, and severe hygiene issues in the home. After several incidents of behavioral outbursts in his foster home and school due to the trauma and upheaval he had experienced, Asher was placed into a residential psychiatric treatment center for children. It was at this time that a judge appointed a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to be Asher’s voice in court and help advocate for his needs throughout his time in foster care.

It became clear to the CASA right away that Asher had a long history of adults breaking their promises to him. The CASA went to visit Asher in his residential treatment center and advocated for his needs and appropriate services while he was placed there. Slowly, she began to build a trusting relationship with Asher through frequent visits and phone calls.

When it became clear that neither parent would be able to safely care for Asher, the CASA helped facilitate Asher being placed with his grandparents and continued to support them amidst ongoing struggles with Asher’s behaviors and the uncertainties of the case. Through different foster homes, social workers and attorneys, Asher’s CASA remained committed to staying by his side and being the consistent person he could rely on throughout his time in the foster care system.

Now, as a 9-year-old and after three long years in foster care, Asher is doing really well. His grandparents were recently granted legal guardianship of Asher, and he finally has the stability he needs to thrive. He and his grandparents will be moving out of state soon to be closer to extended family who will help support them and ensure that Asher grows up in a safe and permanent home.

Grover's Story

When Grover’s family brought him to the hospital for respiratory difficulty, doctors recognized there was more going on. Grover had not grown to the weight and size expected for infants of his age, referred to as failure to thrive. When a social worker came to meet with Grover’s family, she discovered that the mother was severely cognitively delayed, and was living in a small house with a large number of other people.

For the time being, child protective services removed Grover from his mother’s care and placed him in a foster home. Soon, Grover was found to have several previously unidentified medical conditions, including significant sensory deficits and developmental delays. Due to Grover’s tremendous medical and social needs, a Court Appointed Special Advocate was assigned to the case – someone who happened to have significant pediatric healthcare and administration experience.

Grover’s CASA became a catalyst in building a bridge of trust between Grover’s mother and child protective services. The CASA helped Grover’s biological family to understand that the social workers had Grover’s best interests in mind – while also sharing with the family the progress Grover was making in his development and various therapies. In addition, the CASA worked to help the family understand how happy Grover was with his current foster parents. As a result of these efforts, the family agreed to submit to specialized tests, which allowed doctors to determine the biological causes of some of Grover’s conditions, and thus prescribe the best treatments and services for his needs. Grover’s CASA was committed to maintaining communication with the social worker, service providers, foster family, and biological family. Because of this, all were able to work toward a plan for Grover to grow up in a safe home that encourages his ongoing progress, where he will know the love of his extended family.

Rita's Story

Rita had not yet reached her teenage years when her father overdosed in front of her. While he survived, child protective services removed Rita from his care and placed her with her aunt and uncle in Billings. Rita’s mother was halfway across the county, serving time in prison.
Not long after Rita had been living with her aunt and uncle, they informed Rita’s social worker that they didn’t have the resources to continue caring for her. Rita was then moved to a group home. It was around this time that the judge overseeing Rita’s case assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to visit Rita regularly and speak up for her best interests.
Before the new CASA could even set up her first visit with Rita, the CASA learned Rita had been moved from the group home to a residential treatment facility elsewhere in the state. While Court Appointed Special Advocates can receive exceptions to regular visits if the child is placed far away, Rita’s CASA insisted on making the hours-long drive to the facility to see her. These visits continued for months, until Rita’s Medicaid funding was discontinued, and she was sent back to the group home in Billings. It was while living at the group home that Rita learned her father had passed away from his drug addiction. Over the next two years, Rita would be moved from the group home to a foster home, then to another foster home, then back with her aunt and uncle, then again to a different foster home, with each move triggered by its own set of circumstances. During this time of transition, turmoil, and personal tragedy, Rita’s CASA was her constant.
As is the unfortunate reality for many children in foster care, especially teenagers, a large portion of Rita’s possessions were gradually left behind each time she moved to a new placement. This included clothing, books, and items of sentimental value. Rita’s CASA put in an extraordinary amount of effort to find these items at the former foster homes. She also arranged to go through the storage units owned by the state, containing years’ worth of lost items belonging to children in foster care, digging through bags and boxes until she was able to locate specific items that Rita had lost in her moves.
Rita had been placed back in a residential treatment facility by the time Montana announced its first case of COVID-19. With normal recreational activities suspended and all off-campus field trips cancelled, many of the youth at the facility began receiving parcels from their parents with books and games to keep them occupied. With minimal family support in her life, Rita did not expect to receive anything in the mail. She was soon surprised and thrilled when the staff handed her a care package from her CASA – which also included the practical household items and hygiene products which were, and continue to be, hard to come by during a wide-spread health crisis.
With no visitors allowed on the facility’s campus, Rita’s CASA had to discontinue her regular visits, a commitment she had maintained consistently for three years, no matter where Rita was placed. In lieu of visits to the facility, the CASA began calling her several times each week, checking in on her needs, and giving Rita a comforting voice – and ear – during scary times. When the fog of COVID-19 finally lifts, the CASA hopes to coordinate a visit between Rita and members of her distant family living out of state, who have the potential of providing Rita with the forever home she has been waiting for.
This is an absolutely true story about the impact a CASA can have in a child’s life. With your continued support, more children like Rita can have advocacy in the foster care system and experience the difference a Court Appointed Special Advocate makes.

A Story of Three Sisters

Avery, Mia, and Zoey had been living with their mother and her boyfriend in a Billings motel for several months. Every night, in order to keep warm, the girls slept together on the floor between the room’s only bed and the radiator. One day, Avery – the oldest of the sisters – went to school with a bruised face, and her teacher called child protective services. A social worker visited the motel room, and saw the squalid conditions the children lived in, which included dog feces all over the carpet. The youngest child appeared to not have been bathed or provided a clean diaper in days. A background check revealed that the mother’s boyfriend was a registered sex offender.

The children were removed for their own safety and placed in a foster home together. The two younger children, Mia and Zoey, both under the ages of 4, had speech delays, and soon began to show difficult behaviors in the home as well. These included hoarding food in their rooms, digging through the trash for food despite plenty in the fridge, and becoming violent toward one another, occasionally causing real harm. In time, it also became clear that one or more of the girls had likely been perpetrated on by the mother’s boyfriend when they lived at the motel.

The combination of these issues and other factors led to Avery, Mia, and Zoey being split up into three different foster homes. The judge overseeing the girls’ case appointed them a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), whose responsibilities would include visiting the children on a regular basis and writing reports to the judge on the girls’ status and needs. The CASA knew it would be difficult building rapport with them given their trauma, compounded by their separation to different foster homes and on top of the younger girls’ speech delays. The foster parents, teachers, and daycare providers soon began communicating messages to the CASA to relay to the judge and the social worker. The sisters each began to notice as well that their CASA would not just be another adult to come and go in their lives, but instead was there for the long haul.

One of the most impactful contributions the CASA had to the case was helping to coordinate visits between the sisters. Having established a working relationship with each of the three sets of foster parents, she was able to mediate communication between all the adults, eventually getting them in regular contact with one another so that they could facilitate carpooling to sleepovers – allowing the girls to see their sisters every weekend. The CASA’s dedication to the case left an impression on the judge, who took special interest in the case and began scheduling court hearings at a regular frequency to receive updates. The judge would personally ask the CASA what help and services Avery, Mia, and Zoey all needed, and turned many of the CASA’s recommendations into action, including getting the girls set up with counseling.

The girls’ mother eventually relinquished her legal rights to the children. While this kind of occasion is never one to celebrate, each of the foster families stepped up and expressed that given the absence of any other stable family members for Avery, Mia, and Zoey to go to, the girls would each have a forever home with them. As the sisters’ cases now moves toward adoption, they continue to have their Court Appointed Special Advocate by their side – the one constant who will be there until the very end.

Ray and Marnie's Story

Three-year-old Ray and his infant sister Marnie entered foster care after reports that their mother and grandmother were using and selling drugs out of the home. Social workers also realized that Marnie was underweight and had a slew of unmet medical needs.

A local judge assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate to Ray and Marnie’s case. The children’s CASA became immediately effective at connecting with Marnie’s doctors and facilitating information between all the other professionals involved in the children’s lives: pre-school teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, attorneys, the foster parents, and the social worker. Ray and Marnie’s mother, who struggled with her own disabilities, began demonstrating early in the case that she was ready to make the changes in her life and do whatever it would take to get her kids back. Wanting to encourage this progress, the CASA made sure to keep mom involved and in the loop as much as possible.

For her efforts in advocating for the children’s needs, pushing the ball forward, and getting services set up, the CASA received public praise from the county attorney. There is now real hope that Ray and Marnie can be reunited with their mother, something the children had always asked for.

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