An estimated 5,000 San Diego children spend time in foster care each year. They are innocent victims who have been taken away from their homes through no fault of their own, but due to parental maltreatment. Once removed, the children are under Court jurisdiction until a judge determines the home is safe for return. If reunification cannot occur, the child continues to live in foster care until an adoption or guardianship can be arranged. Sadly, many children are never adopted and spend their childhoods in foster care.
CASAs play an integral role in improving the foster care system and supporting each child. Many studies show that foster children with CASAs are happier and healthier. Because they have the encouragement and advocacy of a supportive adult, they do better in school and get better grades. They are as much as 50% more likely to avoid the at-risk behaviors that lead to negative outcomes. This is why VFC’s role in the community is such an important one.
Read the stories below to learn more about the children we serve.*
Growing up, Jacob experienced physical and emotional abuse. After being removed from his home, he switched living arrangements and schools multiple times. He had very little support as he tried to navigate and adapt to each new living situation. Much of the time he felt alone and apathetic—especially about school. Jacob’s grades began slipping. He was in danger of failing and having to repeat the 7th grade.
As soon as Voices for Children assigned him the case, CASA Eric jumped wholeheartedly into advocating for Jacob—especially when it came to Jacob’s education. In just a month and a half, Eric had scheduled meetings with Jacob’s teachers, counselors, and principal. Eric included Jacob in these meetings so the young man would learn to be involved and take ownership of his academics.
Jacob’s grades began improving. By the end of the term, his marks increased in three of his classes. For the first time ever, Jacob put effort into his studies and experienced the joy of learning. With encouragement from Eric, Jacob also became more socially engaged, making friends for the first time. Eric also ensured that Jacob’s academic records were complete and that credits were properly transferred from his previous school. He then obtained the Court’s permission for Jacob to get involved in extracurricular activities. All of this has transformed Jacob from a solitary, apathetic young man to someone with real hope for his future.
The life of four-year-old Hailey has been filled with turmoil and neglect. Her parents had a violent relationship and often left her in the care of strangers. When Child Welfare Services removed Hailey from home at age three, she spoke only two words: “no” and “uh-oh.” She displayed many other cognitive and physical delays typical of maltreated young children.
Thanks to Karen, Hailey has started to catch up with her peers developmentally. She is helping to ensure that Hailey’s journey through the foster care system is brief and has the happy ending she deserves: a safe, permanent, and loving place with an adoptive family.Fortunately, Hailey was matched with a CASA, Karen. It soon became apparent to Karen that even with services, Hailey’s biological parents were not making any progress turning their lives around. Karen researched to find other family members available to adopt Hailey, but none would commit. Karen provided regular updates to the Court and recommended speech therapy to teach the little girl to express herself, and play therapy to help her work through the trauma she experienced.
Rachelle, Annette, and Andrew
After enduring heart-breaking neglect, Rachelle and Annette (ages 5 and 4) and their seven-year-old brother, Andrew, were removed from their mentally ill mother and completely absent father and placed into foster care. Tragically, the adoptive foster mother they were placed with suddenly developed dire health issues and could not continue with the adoption.
With hardly any warning, their social worker worked miracles and found the three children another adoptive placement, outside of San Diego County. The children had barely settled in, still reeling from the change, when little Annette was diagnosed with leukemia. Meanwhile, the older boy’s long-overdue dental surgeries reached an acute stage.
Their CASA, Karina, visited the children regularly, providing continuity and reassurance to the children and helping locate medical resources and support for the foster mother. She also kept the Court informed of how the children were adjusting.
The children immediately started to thrive with their loving new parents, and their adoption finalized in February, attended by the CASA who organized a joyous celebration. Today, Annette is in remission and Andrew’s surgeries are completed. All of the children have resumed their childhoods, secure in the love of their “forever families.”
Anthony’s dark brown eyes shine excitedly as he races from the slide to the climbing dome at the playground. Though still shy around people he doesn’t know well, Anthony has come a long way from the nearly nonverbal toddler he was at age two—when a school-bus driver found him roaming the neighborhood, filthy, hungry, and unsupervised.
After about six months in an emergency foster shelter, Anthony was assigned to CASA Lauren. The social worker believed that reunification was the best plan for Anthony’s case, even though it seemed Anthony’s mother always had an excuse for missing a hearing or therapy appointment, or for arriving for a supervised visit with Anthony clearly high on drugs. Meanwhile, relatives appeared and disappeared, and Anthony folded into himself, vocalizing only for uncontrollable tantrums.
After nine months of researching the case, speaking with other family, caregivers, doctors, and case-team members, Lauren recommended to the Court that there should not be reunification, and that Anthony be found a family who would love him enough to see him through his emotional disarray. Her well-researched and impassioned presentation convinced the judge and the social worker. Lauren’s dream for Anthony came true several months later, and now Anthony is just weeks away from a finalized adoption and his new life with a loving “forever” family.
Sophia was only months old when she was placed in foster care due to extreme parental neglect. She was immediately matched with CASA Michelle, who frequently visited Sophia to make sure she was reaching developmental milestones. CASA Michelle also kept apprised of Sophia’s parents’ progress toward reunification, eventually recommending to the Court that parental rights be terminated. The Court agreed. Now—many months and court hearings later—Sophia has been adopted by a wonderful family, who will give the little girl the loving childhood she deserves.
*Voices for Children guards the confidentiality of the children we serve. Names have been changed to protect identify; the children in the photos are models.