John’s teachers called Child Protective Services right after they called an ambulance.
John, 11, had been suffering from severe stomach pain for days and was doubled over in pain and rocking back and forth in the classroom. Diagnosed with autism and nonverbal, John struggled with sensory issues, had not been eating or drinking at school for months and was severely constipated. He was pale with dark circles under his eyes, had dry, cracked and bleeding lips and had lost significant weight, but when the school called his caregiver, his aunt, she was not concerned.
The school nurse called an ambulance for John. At the hospital, John was found to be severely dehydrated, suffering from a urinary tract infection and was admitted overnight for medical attention. CPS placed John in protective care due to medical neglect, and the courts assigned a Dallas CASA volunteer, Casey, to advocate for John.
John had been living with his aunt since he was born, but his father had always visited him daily. His dad knew John had struggled with nutrition and his weight, but the boy’s aunt had hidden the severity of the problem from the boy’s father.
Once John was in protective care, his father stepped up to care for his son.
From the first day John was placed with his dad, Casey was there to support the pair. John had major medical and special educational needs, and Casey helped John’s dad get the boy set up in a new school. They had records transferred from his old school and a meeting with the school’s special education team. Together, Casey and John’s dad found a specialized after-school program where John could go while his dad finished his work day. Working closely with John’s teachers, his dad got permission for John to wear ear muffs at school to help calm his anxiety. As John got more comfortable physically, his speech and communication abilities improved, and he began speech therapy.
Casey had experience working with children with special needs, and he approached the relationship with the boy in a careful, patient and non-threatening way. As John got more comfortable in his dad’s home, he opened up in front of Casey, laughing and smiling and even echoing language his dad would use. “Tell Casey bye,” his dad would say, with John echoing back “Tell Casey bye.”
Most importantly, John’s dad worked closely with his doctors to follow up on his nutrition and weight loss. Over the next year, John gained 30 pounds and was found to be at a healthy weight.
“To have a young male advocate working so closely with a father was wonderful on this case,” said the Dallas CASA supervisor assigned to the case. “The advocate provided encouragement and support to the father, normalized his anxieties about becoming a full-time parent and helped ensure the father understood the complexities of the child’s needs.”
Today, John lives with his dad, where he receives regular medical care and remains at a healthy weight. He enjoys video games and school and spending time with his dad.