When CASA volunteer Karen first began advocating for Mary, JoJo and David Jr., 5, 3 and newborn, she struggled to see a way the young family could be reunited.
David Jr. was born positive for methamphetamine, triggering Child Protective Services’ involvement. David Jr. and his two sisters were removed from their parents and placed with paternal relatives.
For the next nine months, the children’s mother Juana spiraled downward. She was caught in a cycle of domestic violence with David Jr.’s father, was not completing her court-ordered services and missed many visits with her children. But then something spurred Juana to action. She broke up with the children’s father and moved in temporarily with a friend. She started making visits more regularly, bringing clothing and toys for the children. She began checking off her court-ordered services, submitting to random drug tests and found a full-time job at a grocery store.
It was at the grocery store where she met Joshua. He encouraged her to keep working to get her children back. Juana worked more, found an apartment of her own and slowly began furnishing it. She cut all ties with the children’s father, completed extensive individual counseling and consistently tested clean. In three months, she reworked her entire life with Joshua supporting her. “I saw a new mother, determined to do everything she needed to do to get her kids back,” Karen said. “She went into overdrive, and we all noticed.”
In mediation, CPS, CASA and all parties agreed to allow the children to go home with their mother. Backgrounds checks were run on Joshua, and he was allowed to help with the children. For six months, CPS and CASA remained involved to check on the safety of the children and the home environment. Karen continued visiting, falling into a rhythm of reading books to Mary and JoJo while watching David Jr. toddle around his mother’s apartment.
“The transformation of the children over those six months was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed,” Karen said.
Juana changed jobs to better accommodate the children’s schedules. She enrolled them in school and daycare and furnished their shared bedroom with bunkbeds for the girls and a toddler bed for David Jr. She and Joshua worked well together, with Joshua taking the early work shift and picking up the kids after school and Juana getting them to school in the mornings.
When the case closed, Karen’s involvement with the children was over, but their mother asked if she could stay in touch.
“I feel so honored that she still texts me even though the case is over,” Karen said. “She sent me pictures on their first day of school and on Halloween. Then, I received a wedding invitation.”
Juana and Joshua were getting married at the church near their home. When Karen arrived at the wedding, all three children came running to her and calling her name. During the ceremony, the children waved at her from their front pew seats and during photos afterward all three children competed for Karen’s lap and to hear a book she’d brought them.
“I got to witness these three precious children watch their Mama get married to a kind man ready to be a husband and father to them,” Karen said. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days.
“This was my first CASA case and for almost a year I thought the kids could never go back to their parents. But today the kids are exactly where they need to be.”