On October 10, 2009, a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) was assigned to the case of 13-year-old Lea and 11-year-old Sarah.* The sisters and their four siblings were brought to the attention of the Health and Human Services Agency of San Diego County after Lea and Sarah’s older sister tried to enroll herself in school and disclosed that the family was homeless.
The children were declared dependents of the Court on July 23, 2009, after which Sarah’s education suffered and Lea struggled with feelings of guilt and anxiety. Through it all, their CASA was there to observe, listen, support, and advocate for them.
Below is an excerpt from the CASA’s court report.
Lea is a bright young woman with a great deal of potential and is excelling in school. Overall, she is doing well in her foster home, although she occasionally has difficulty following the rules. It will be important for her to receive follow up care for her vision, and I am recommending that an appointment be scheduled as soon as possible. Lea should continue to receive therapy from Ms. Yellow as she finds the sessions very beneficial.
Lea enjoys seeing her younger siblings during weekend visits. However, Lea continues to experience a great deal of confusion and ambiguity about returning home. According to her foster mother, she returns from visits overwhelmed and exhausted, and she seems to be very anxious about whether or not her parents can maintain their sobriety. I am disappointed that family therapy has not commenced to help Lea work through these issues.
Sarah has also done well in her foster home. Her recent increased difficulty in school is concerning, however, and I am hopeful that it will be addressed at her education meeting in December. I believe that Sarah could benefit greatly from reading and math tutoring.
Sarah should also continue to attend therapy with Ms. Yellow on a weekly basis. It is unclear to me what steps have been taken to address Sarah’s allegation that she was sexually abused by a family friend. This issue must be explored in order to ensure Sarah’s safety and to make certain she is receiving the appropriate treatment. Sarah’s dental checkup is overdue, and she is due for a medical checkup. I respectfully recommend that these exams be scheduled as soon as possible.
The parents have worked diligently on their case plans. However, I am concerned about a number of issues. First, family therapy seems vitally important for this family, particularly for Lea who is struggling with her feelings regarding her parents and reunification. I am disappointed that the parents have not made family therapy a priority. Second, the mother has had one relapse during the past six months, at which time she smoked marijuana. She reports that this relapse was caused by stress. I would anticipate that having six children return to her home would cause Mrs. Blue further stress, and I am concerned about her ability to stay clean and sober. Finally, while the parents have made great strides in maintaining financial stability, the father is again unemployed. All of these factors make a return home at this point less than ideal. I believe that family therapy should commence immediately. In addition, I feel that the family would benefit greatly from family maintenance services and recommend that they be offered to the family.
Note: While the parents have completed almost all aspects of their reunification plans, they have not shown the stability necessary to parent these girls. Given the mother’s recent relapse, the parents’ lack of commitment to participating in therapy and Lea’s ambivalence about returning home, I recommend that reunification services be terminated and a hearing be set to determine a permanent plan.
• That Lea and Sarah remain dependents of the Court.
• That family therapy commence immediately.
• That Lea and Sarah continue to receive weekly therapy.
• That Lea receive follow up care regarding her vision.
• That medical and dental exams be scheduled for Sarah.
• That Sarah receive tutoring for reading and math.
The girls are doing very well at San Pasqual Academy, where they enjoy living together in the same cottage. Their CASA is proud of the fact that Lea has been consistently on the honor roll, and is going on four years of advocating for their best interests.
*Names have been changed to protect identity; the children pictured are models.