Investigate: CASAs recognize “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. Debbie Tudor learned this as she watched six-year-old Samantha fall further and further behind in school, without any solutions being offered. Although she had only been enrolled in formal schooling a few short months, Samantha had attended four schools, in two different school districts, with four different teachers. Each teacher agreed Samantha was lacking even the most basic kindergarten skills, and she needed to be tested for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in order to qualify for educational services. As Samantha’s CASA, Debbie was determined to find out why she was not getting the available services she needed. Debbie’s investigation uncovered that Samantha, after being bounced from school to school, was lacking the appropriate three month progress documentation necessary to request IEP testing. Recognizing that it was not in Samantha’s best interest to continue to wait for testing, Debbie provided the information she had gathered from school counselors, principals, and Samantha’s teachers, past and present, to the school district superintendent who was able to expedite the testing process. Through the CASA’s efforts, Samantha is receiving special education and speech therapy services, and, as a first grader is working at grade level in all areas.
Report: Brenda Harris is a wonderful educational advocate. She works in the educational system and puts a high value on it. We make sure to put her on cases where there may be a concern about schooling. She isn't afraid to get into the schools to meet with teachers and to check in on a regular basis. She provides detailed and thoughtful reports to the Guardian ad Litem making sure to include things she thinks would be beneficial, she is vigilant with teenagers and making sure that they are on track to graduate.
Recommend: It is so important to make fact based recommendations, yet still listen to your intuitions like Cherrie. When Cherrie first started with Kaitlyn, everything was perceived to be going well at home. But when she really got to know Kaitlyn and the situation, it all changed. Kaitlyn did not like her dad and for good reasons. She would tell Cherrie what was really happening, and it was alarming. Cherrie came in and asked if a background check had been done, which to our disappointment it hadn’t yet. Cherrie requested one and we ran a background check on Kaitlyn’s dad. It was discovered that he had committed crimes in several other states and warrants were out for his arrest. We notified the authorities and Kaitlyn’s dad was arrested. Since that time, Kaitlyn has been a happy girl, with her stress level noticeably lowered. Because of the recommendation from Cherrie, Kaitlyn and her siblings were able to be safe within the home.
Advocate: Josi and Lee Kilpack work together on the case that they have been assigned to. In the two years they have been on the case, the three girls have moved from several placements and been to various treatment centers/hospitals. They have been the consistent person in these children's lives. One girl is in the state hospital and her visit from Josi and Lee is the only visit she has that isn't by a paid professional. Josi and Lee help facilitate messages between the siblings now that are all at separate locations. They coordinate with the therapist to allow for appropriate communication, so the children can still have that connection.
Support: Children who have been abused or neglected need safe and nurturing relationships. CASA’s are often among the few consistent adults in a child’s life, and the support and encouragement they provide can be invaluable. A mental health assessment of 5 year old Lydia recommended she have pro-social, positive and healthy interactions with adults outside her family. She has experienced trauma as a result of bouncing around in foster care; she has lost faith in adults. A healthy connection with an adult figure will positively benefit her.
Rhonda, a new, caring and kind hearted CASA accepted the assignment. She has consistently visited Lydia in her mother’s care and now, unfortunately, in yet another removal and new foster home. She has supported and tracked her pre-school, ensuring the most recent move would allow her to attend the same school with familiar friends. Lydia is always excited to see her CASA, gives her a big hug and can communicate openly with Rhonda.