Last winter, three young siblings were found living with their father in a shed without running water, power or plumbing. The children had been sleeping in several coats to stay warm at night. None of the children had been to school in a year, and they’d been bathing in a bucket in the yard. The shed was littered with filth. Their father was doing drugs, and their mother was unaware of the situation and living elsewhere.

Child Protectives Services intervened. The children were moved to safety in a foster home, the mother was located, and both mother and father were offered drug treatment.

While the children adjusted to the sudden change in their lives, the youngest child, first-grader Bonnie, did not want to go to school. Many mornings, she refused to get out of the car at school, making her repeatedly absent. Some days, she made it to school but spent the day in the nurse’s or counselor’s office.

But Bonnie’s Dallas CASA volunteers, Linda and Kim, made educational advocacy a focus from the start. They met with Bonnie’s teacher and the school counselor to craft a plan to get Bonnie in the classroom and requested tutoring and reading intervention for Bonnie, who had fallen far behind.

The CASA volunteers talked to the parents and foster parents about basics, such as regular bedtimes, so the children had enough sleep to be well-rested. They also discussed counseling so Bonnie could work through her feelings.

When Bonnie’s teacher notified Linda that Bonnie had not turned homework in for two months, Linda and Kim requested a group meeting with the teacher, school counselor and parents. They discussed the importance of regular attendance and staying on top of Bonnie’s progress.

While they continued their recovery, Linda and Kim helped Bonnie’s mother and father learn how they could better support their children.  The parents were not aware of the many ways they could help her, including how to access the school portal, so Linda walked them through different ways they could advocate for their children. They also discussed how the family could support Bonnie each evening with schoolwork. Bonnie’s teachers emphasized that she was a bright girl who, with practice, could quickly catch up.

Linda empowered Bonnie’s parents to reach out to her teacher and ask questions about her progress. They also discussed the family’s dreams for the children, which included high school graduation and college.

With support from Linda, Kim, her school and her parents, Bonnie tackled the end of the school year with renewed enthusiasm. Though some days were still hard, Bonnie made steady progress.

Most importantly to Linda, she saw Bonnie’s mother begin using some educational advocacy skills she’d learned with Bonnie for her two older children. She asked Bonnie’s brother’s teacher for an update on his progress and help to address any issues, something she had not even known she could do a few months ago.

“I was so proud to see those parenting skills blossoming,” Linda said. “It was a positive sign for the children and the entire family.”

Today, Bonnie has been reunified with her family. Her father and mother completed drug treatment, and her parents are co-parenting successfully. Bonnie moved to the second grade this fall. She has new support and understanding at home and finds happiness and success at school.