Tuesday, May 4, 2021
For most children, summertime is a time of celebration. A time to relax and recover from the previous year and to prepare for the next. This was not the case for Alex* (13) and Michael* (7). With just a few weeks left in their summer vacation, Alex and Michael’s lives were changed when they were removed from their home and placed into the Oklahoma Child Welfare System.
The boy’s mother, Shannon*, and her boyfriend, Doug*, were heavy drug abusers and constant sparring partners; causing the boys to witness things children should never have to see.
Alex and Michael were placed into a loving foster home with people who cared for them, but it was the last place these young boys wanted to be. They loved their mother, and wanted desperately to go home to her.
When the judge appointed CASA volunteer, Stephanie, to the case, it appeared as if the boys’ parents had given up hope. Shannon and Doug were resistant to the idea of working with DHS to complete the services needed for their children to return home and were not making any progress on their case at all. Stephanie worked with the parents, reminding them of all they had to gain if they could just stay sober and work the plan assigned to them by the state. Slowly, Shannon and Doug began taking steps towards change. They began drug treatment programs, parenting classes, and domestic violence programs - to help them become the types of parents the boys needed.
By the time the children were returned home just over a year later, Shannon and Doug had celebrated one full year of sobriety. They began working again and found a new home that they could share with their children. Their relationship had changed in ways that allowed them to be the type of family the boys had always hoped for. A happy one.
Bridging the divide between foster care and reunification can be challenging and rewarding. More CASA volunteers, like Stephanie, are needed to advocate for children who enter the child welfare system to help ensure they have the best opportunity to thrive. Can you help?
*Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of the parties involved.