When brothers Adrian, Sergio and Tomas came into foster care, they brought with them trauma but also cultural challenges.
As Spanish-speaking Latinos, the boys were placed in the first foster home available – an English-speaking home.
Bilingual Dallas CASA volunteer Juan was happy to be assigned to the brothers’ case. He knew something about how they might feel.
Juan immigrated from Mexico as a teenager and remembered the unique pain of being somewhere that doesn’t feel or sound like home. He moved from Juarez, Mexico to Amarillo to live with his godmother at age 15 and hasn’t forgotten how hard and lonely the first few months were.
“I know a big part of the reason I am where I am today is because my godmother believed in education,” he said. “She made me believe I could do well in school. If I could do the same thing for these boys, that’s amazing. I want to be able to do for somebody else what she did for me.”
After a year of English as a Second Language course work, Juan transferred to a local high school, then went to junior college, a four-year university and graduate business school. Today, he is an oil and gas executive who helped start a company.
The boys had mixed reactions to their new CASA volunteer at first. The youngest Tomas rushed right over to sit with Juan, but Adrian, age 12, was suspicious. Juan started speaking Spanish to them, asking questions about sports they liked and explaining his role as an advocate.
“They are learning English, so we go back and forth between Spanish and English pretty easily,” he said. “I tell them I don’t want them to lose their Spanish. That’s a very important part of who they are. I think they like hearing that.”
Since their first meeting, Juan has developed a strong bond with the brothers. They’ve played putt-putt golf and gone Go-Karting. They talk about football and enjoy hanging out. Juan wants the boys to focus on education and he’s worked with the boys’ foster placement to keep a focus on education and school. All three receive extra support in reading and math thanks to Juan’s advocacy.
Recently, Adrian has been struggling in school, and his foster placement reached out to Juan for support. One Saturday when his office was empty, Juan brought the boys to show them his office. He showed them the diplomas on the wall, the Texas Tech University ring he wears and his big desk. They wanted to know what he did to get an office so big. He told them: “Look, there are opportunities out there for you and education is your way to them.”
Today, the boys are still in protective care. Adrian’s grades are up some, and Juan continues to motivate him and remind him of the importance of education. Sergio and Tomas are doing better in school, and Juan has high hopes that these young boys can help write their own futures with his support.