Caitlin grew up in a drug house. She began using cocaine at nine, methamphetamines and marijuana at 13. By 15, she was pregnant. Within a year, she was being sexually trafficked on the streets of Dallas by her son’s father.
Child Protective Services was called when Caitlin’s son Jordan was 10. He slept on the couch while his mother turned tricks in the bedroom of their one-bedroom apartment. He was vomiting at school due to anxiety, acting out in the classroom and hoarding food in his backpack. His father, also his mother’s abuser, was long gone.
But Caitlin’s luck was about to turn. She was offered a spot in Dallas County’s Legacy Family Court, a unique court that focuses on recovery, rehabilitation and reunification for families. Jordan was assigned a Dallas CASA volunteer Walter. A father of four grown sons, Walter felt he had more to give. He and Jordan talked sports, grades and about Jordan’s love for his mother.
Jordan loved to ride his bike, and he enjoyed following the Carolina Panthers and Miami Heat. He loved drawing most of all, finding relaxation and stress relief in the process. His grades weren’t great though, and while his foster home was good he missed his mom.
“I realized pretty quickly that Caitlin had been doing something right despite her challenges,” Walter said. “Jordan and his mom really loved each other.”
The Legacy Court program would support Caitlin as she worked to remain clean, and the goal would be reunification of mother and son. Caitlin committed to in-patient rehabilitation followed by sober living, both programs she was new to despite years of addiction. The effect of being surrounded by support showed quickly, and Caitlin was clean almost from day one.
One week, Caitlin showed up in a new dress she’d gotten at Attitudes & Attires for a job interview. Another week, she reported she’d found an apartment after several months in sober living. She found a sponsor to support her sobriety. She accessed specialized trauma counseling and worked with Walter to create a budget. At weekly visits with Jordan, they laughed and talked.
Not every step of the way was easy. Caitlin struggled to make all her appointments while working. She was assigned drug testing in an area where she used to prostitute and was uncomfortable being back there. She struggled with health issues and finding a good job. Jordan’s grades grew worse, and Walter advocated for a learning assessment at school. Jordan didn’t like when a new foster child was placed in his foster home.
Through it all, Caitlin knew Walter, Jordan’s foster family and the Legacy Court had her back. Walter provided support, including occasional rides to work after court appointments and facilitating contact with Jordan. He drove to pick up Jordan’s bike from storage so he could have it.
“I don’t think she’d had anyone support her like that before,” Walter said. “That I was willing to give her a ride so she was on time to work wasn’t a big thing to me, but it seemed to mean a lot to her. It allowed us to build trust. Ultimately, the best way I could support Jordan was to support Caitlin.”
Today, Jordan and his mother are reunited, and his mother has been sober 18 months. Caitlin has a good job with health benefits, and Jordan is receiving academic support at school. He carries a drawing pad with him most days, and he proudly told Walter some of his art work was recently chosen for a show at the high school.
“Things just came together for Caitln, and that’s due to her,” Walter said. “She kept working and trying and pushing and she got there.”