Matteo and Alejandra loved their “Yaya” but they loved their foster family too.
The children came into foster care due to their parents’ drug use. They were placed in a foster home when family members could not care for them. They were assigned a CASA volunteer Meaghan who began visiting them regularly, reporting to the court how the children were doing.
The children blossomed with their foster family. Matteo excelled in school, especially math, and was able to be a kid for the first time after acting as parent to his little sister. Alejandra, who had delayed speech, began speaking in both English and Spanish, languages spoken in the foster home. Both children grew several inches. They bonded with older siblings in the home, stopped having nightmares and joined in family traditions like camping and eating dinner together.
After almost eight months in the foster home, Matteo and Alejandra’s father requested they be moved to an elderly family friend’s home. The family friend, who the children called Yaya, agreed to care for them expecting them to stay only a couple of weeks while their father completed drug rehabilitation. She was raising two grandchildren and knew the strain of caring for four children was too much at her age.
But weeks turned into a month and the children’s father continued to use drugs. The family friend told Meaghan she was considering giving the children to a friend from church. When visiting, CASA learned Yaya had been leaving the children with her 12-year-old granddaughter for entire days so she could work. Another babysitter Yaya used turned out to have a felony conviction. Meaghan saw the family friend grow increasingly overwhelmed and suggested she reach out to the prior foster family for assistance.
With the approval of Child Protective Services, the foster family provided babysitting for the grandmother so she could work but the kids would be safe. Then the family agreed to keep the children for some overnights, then weekends, then entire weeks at a time to help Yaya. The children told Meaghan they loved Yaya but considered the foster placement “home” and felt safe, protected and happy there.
With the case reaching an end, Meaghan with the support of the children’s attorney floated an unusual idea. What if the foster family and Yaya shared custody of the kids? The children could live with the foster family and Yaya could function as a grandparent. After careful consideration, all parties agreed the unusual arrangement was in the best interest of the children.
Because of their CASA volunteer Meaghan, Matteo and Alejandra live full-time with their foster family, where they are safe and protected and continue to grow and blossom, and they visit Yaya regularly.