As CASA volunteers, we frequently work with disrupted families whose children have been removed from their home due to unsafe conditions. It is often a struggle for families to amend the conditions that led to the removal of their children. Working towards reunification and re-building a safe home takes time and effort, as well as a lot of supportive services.
One child that I was assigned to was an infant who suffered from broken bones and a bruised eye socket at the hands of her father. The father was temporarily in jail, but the Court, Social Services, and CASA staff were concerned about the relationship between the mother and father. Like many victims of domestic or intimate partner violence, initially, the mother minimized the father’s abusive actions and intended to reunite with him when he was released. Due to the severe domestic violence and concerns regarding future safety, the baby was removed from the home.
When I was appointed to the case and contacted the mom, she had already decided that she was “all-in” on working to get her child back! She made regular, daily contact with the foster family and quickly called to schedule the evaluation and domestic violence counseling that the Court required. She also looked for other resources that would help her be a better parent to her little girl. This mom was eager to meet with anyone who could help her and readily engaged in parent coaching and education.
With the help of domestic violence counseling, I observed that she began to realize the risks of staying in an intimate relationship with the child’s father. The mother severed contact with the father – she refused his calls from jail and stopped reading the letters he was sending almost daily.
Universally, among all the court professionals, the mother was praised for her hard work in making sure she could care for her infant daughter when she returned home. As a result, and because the mother made a commitment to the services she needed to create a safe, healthy home, the little girl was returned home significantly sooner than expected. The mother continued to engage in services for herself and her daughter. She developed a well-thought-out plan to allow contact between the baby and her father. She had come to recognize that it was her responsibility to keep her daughter safe from harm.
I have been a CASA volunteer for about 3 years. The cases that I have worked on don’t always follow this path as struggles with family violence and other issues are difficult and complex. For this Mother, however, court intervention seemed to be a “light bulb” showing her that she needed to focus on the safety of her and her child. She single-mindedly set out to get her child back.
It was very rewarding to work with this specific Mother and daughter and help them on their journey. In the end, the mother thanked me for my help, but she was the one who had truly done all the hard work.