Emily’s Story: A Year in the Life of a Foster Child

PART 8: Advancements

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Maria, Emily’s CASA Volunteer:

Emily started school again and was so happy to be back at her old school with her friends! It’s great seeing her life starting to return to normal, and being surrounded by people she knows and trusts makes a big difference.

The week before school started, I checked in with her teacher and the administration staff to make sure her records had transferred over and she was in the right classes. Everything looked great! Assuming she keeps up with her classes this year, we don’t have to worry about her being held back. I had a long conversation with her teacher and caught her up on the basics of Emily’s situation. I also gave her a heads up about the bullying situation at her previous school. The teacher seems very supportive, and I’ll continue to check in regularly for updates.

The best part of school starting was that Emily’s mom got to take her on her first day. Mom’s supervised visits were going so well that we started unsupervised outings. When I last saw Emily, she couldn’t stop talking about the fun things she’s been doing with her mom, including back-to-school shopping. These visits and the continuation of family therapy have been successful, and we all feel confident that the next step should be weekend overnights with mom.

During my visit with Emily, we did start having tougher conversations about her dad. His substance abuse treatment program provider has been in communication with the CPS caseworker, and he seems to be making a lot of good steps forward. He also plans to be at the next hearing and is interested in talking with Emily. I started by telling her she may see him soon at the hearing and asked how she felt about that. She’s still very confused and conflicted about her feelings for him. I’ll continue to talk with her about him here and there, and update her therapist on the situation so that she can also work on preparing Emily for the next hearing.

Emily:

I’ve never been this excited to go back to school before! But I couldn’t wait to see my friends again, and my mom got to take me on my first day. It was almost like before everything happened.

I’ve gotten to see Mom a lot more lately, and we get to go out for dinner together and things like that. She even took me shopping to get my school supplies and new clothes. I love it when it’s just the two of us, but it’s never enough. As good as things are with grandma and grandpa, I just wish I could go home already. My caseworker said I’ll get to spend the night at home soon. I guess that’s a start.

Maria also talked to me more about dad. I don’t really like talking about him. When I think about him, all I see are the times he got angry. I know I have to see him soon, but Maria promised to stay with me the whole time and said that I don’t have to talk to him. I’m not ready yet. 


WHAT’S HAPPENING:

It’s a new school year for Emily, and she is back at the school she attended before her removal. Maria, her CASA volunteer, met with the school to make sure they had her up-to-date records from her last school. She also talked with Emily’s teacher. CASA volunteers have to adhere to confidentiality requirements but it is generally appropriate for them to discuss certain information that is relevant to school personnel.

In Emily’s case, this includes information like:

  • the fact that Emily is currently in foster care and living with her grandparents
  • her mom has visitation rights and will be dropping her off and picking her up on occasion
  • Emily’s CPS caseworker’s contact information

One of the many roles of the CASA volunteer is that of “education advocate.” It’s no secret that the odds are stacked against children in foster care, including when it comes to educational success. Placement changes, just like in Emily’s situation, tend to also lead to school changes, causing many children to fall behind. This reality, paired with the fact that these children are expected to keep up their grades and behavior while processing multiple traumatic and uncertain experiences, means that they need a dedicated advocate by their side who will provide caring support, explain their situation to school personnel and fight for their rights when needed. For in-depth information on CASA educational advocacy, including confidentiality guidelines and more on the barriers children in foster care face, take a look at Texas CASA’s Educational Advocacy Guidebook.

In addition to school starting this month, Emily’s mom has been approved for unsupervised visits for two hours per week. During these visits, she is allowed to take Emily on outings without the grandparents or anyone else on the case. After a couple of weeks of these visits, the natural progression will be to graduate to overnight visits – mom will be allowed to take Emily for the weekend, assuming she continues following her service plan. This is a typical scenario for CPS cases like Emily’s, where the permanency plan is reunification.

These visits will be reported back to the judge at the upcoming permanency review hearing. At this hearing, CPS, CASA, mom’s attorney and dad’s attorney will provide updates on the case, and each will make recommendations for next steps.

Emily’s father will also be in attendance. Maria has been receiving updates on his progress on the services required by his service plan. He has not been on the same pace as Emily’s mom but does seem to be making steps forward.

With that in mind, Maria has started prepping Emily to gauge her response to her dad. She also plans to include Emily’s therapist so that both can continue to talk with her and prepare her for next month’s hearing.

Tune in next month for more of Emily’s Story.*

*This is a fictional story based on real-life situations that many children in the Texas foster care system face. No confidential information about any real children or families has been disclosed.

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