11-year-old Lina has been removed from her home and placed in foster care because her family is in crisis. Nate, a CASA volunteer, has been appointed by the judge to advocate for her best interests.
This story is adapted from the pages of our 2022 Texas CASA Calendar: Lina’s Story. Order the calendar on our CASA Marketplace and have it sent right to your door! Prices start at $17.27 + S&H for one calendar, with discounts if you order two or more.
Read on to follow the story of Lina and her family as they navigate the foster care system.* You’ll see how CASA volunteers like Nate makes a unique, positive difference—and how they help children and their families overcome challenges, support each other and thrive.
11-year-old Lina is removed from her home and placed in foster care because her family is in crisis. Her parents, Esperanza and Marc, are struggling with substance use disorders and have been evicted from their apartment, without anywhere else to go.
A well-trained CASA volunteer, Nate, is appointed by the judge to advocate for Lina’s best interest. With the support of his supervisor, Nate will get to know Lina and her family, develop an understanding of their needs and circumstances, and advocate for them in collaboration with others on the case.
Lina’s parents love her very much and want to do whatever it takes for her to be able to live with them. Knowing that children do best when they can safely remain with their family, Nate’s primary goal will be working towards family stability and reunification.
Lina is struggling with being far away from everyone and everything she knows and loves—living with new people, in a new community, at a new school. It is important for her CASA volunteer Nate to provide a consistent presence, so he checks in regularly, both in-person and over the phone, to make sure she is doing okay.
At one of his visits, Nate works with Lina to create a Connectedness Map, an activity used in Collaborative Family Engagement to illustrate the important people in a young person’s life. Writing out the important people in her life helps Lina open up a little more, and she especially lights up when talking about fun memories with her grandparents. They bake cookies together every time she visits their house… and she always sneaks bites of the dough!
Nate then meets with Lina’s parents at a park to learn more about her family’s history. The three agree to invite Lina’s grandparents to an upcoming family meeting.
CASA volunteer Nate attends a family meeting at the Child Protective Services office along with Lina, Marc, Esperanza, Lina’s paternal grandparents, her foster parents and her caseworker. With the help of a facilitator, they create Lina’s Biggest Unmet Needs Statement: “Lina needs, deserves and has the right to safety, stability and unconditional love, while living with her family, forever.” Throughout the course of the case, Lina’s family and the professionals supporting them will keep this statement in mind and use it to guide their actions and decisions.
Marc and Esperanza are enrolled in court-ordered treatment services, have been sober for 30 days, and have been connected to a nonprofit that is helping them with housing applications. They and Lina leave the family meeting feeling more hopeful and connected, with plans to invite more friends and family to the next meeting.
Nate writes his CASA court report in preparation for the upcoming hearing in Lina’s case. In his report, he updates the judge on how Lina is doing, Marc and Esperanza’s progress on their services and housing, and his recommendations.
At the hearing, Nate recommends that Lina continue in her current foster home, for now. He also recommends exploring Lina’s paternal grandparents as a potential placement, until she can return to her parents’ care. The judge also speaks with Lina, her parents, Lina’s caseworker and the legal advocates on the case. After hearing from all parties, the judge approves Lina’s permanency plan: reunification with her parents upon securing housing and demonstrating continued sobriety and safe care of Lina, with a concurrent plan of adoption by a relative.
As part of their service plan, Lina’s parents have been attending therapy together. While these sessions are not always easy, they help Esperanza and Marc better understand themselves and each other. They also help them practice open communication, come to terms with their own trauma history, and develop healthier coping skills—all things that will help ensure they can provide a safe environment for their daughter.
They attend Lina’s fifth grade graduation, along with Nate, who arranges a special outing for them after. He knows this was a tough school year for Lina, and that her parents would not want to miss this special occasion. They are all very proud of Lina.
At the next hearing, based on recommendations from Lina’s CASA volunteer Nate, her caseworker and her attorney, the judge decides that Lina should live with her paternal grandparents while her parents continue getting treatment. Lina, Marc, Esperanza and everyone else on the case is happy that she will be back with family in a familiar community.
Nate helps Lina’s grandparents apply for the Texas Kinship Reimbursement Payment, and familiarizes them with Lina’s medical insurance, so that they are better prepared to provide the care she deserves. They also take her shopping for new clothes and supplies for the upcoming school year.
Lina is glad to be living with her grandparents – people she knows, loves and trusts. They also get to supervise Marc and Esperanza’s visits now at their home, instead of Lina’s caseworker. The family makes spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. They eat outside on the porch and watch the fireflies.
Though Lina still misses home, she’s relieved that she is getting to see her parents more, and some things in her life are starting to feel a little closer to normal. She is also looking forward to starting the new school year back at the school she attended before she entered foster care.
Lina is excited! She’s going back to her old school, and she can’t wait to see her friends again! It will also be nice to be back with teachers she knows. CASA volunteer Nate is helping make sure her transition back to her old school goes as smoothly as possible. In addition to ensuring her records transfer smoothly, he’s also checking in with school faculty and making sure they can be responsive to her unique physical and educational needs. Lina’s favorite teacher Miss Jacobs, who attended her last family meeting, has agreed to look out for her and be a source of support as she starts the new school year.
Nate, Lina’s caseworker and the other professionals on the case host another family meeting. This time more people join, including Lina’s maternal aunt, a couple of family friends and Lina’s favorite schoolteacher. At this meeting, the team focuses on strengthening the network of support they’ve built around Lina’s family. They review Lina’s Biggest Unmet Needs Statement that has been guiding their work: “Lina needs, deserves and has the right to safety, stability and unconditional love, while living with her family, forever.”
Lina’s parents have been working very hard and doing very well! They have secured housing and are continuing to stay sober. Now that the family is surrounded by a committed lifetime network and Marc and Esperanza have housing again, it is much more likely the permanency plan of reunification will be successful.
Halloween is Lina’s favorite holiday! She invites some of her friends to go trick-or-treating with her, along with her parents and grandparents. She proudly dresses as Wonder Woman – the perfect costume for her, her grandma says, because she has been such a brave superhero this year! They send a family picture to CASA volunteer Nate for him to include in his next court report.
It’s a fun-packed night, full of spooks, treats, friends, and best of all, family connection. Lina and her family are healing, and are hopeful that they will be living together again soon.
Today is a great day! The judge ordered a monitored return, meaning Lina can return home to live with her parents at their new apartment, with DFPS maintaining temporary custody and her caseworker checking in from time to time. If everything goes as planned, the judge will order a full reunification and close the case within a few weeks. The family celebrates that night by cooking Lina’s favorite dinner: spaghetti and meatballs, with ice cream for dessert!
Lina and her parents feel happy, hopeful and whole, for the first time in a long time.
At the final hearing, the judge issues her final order: reunification! All evidence and recommendations from CASA and the caseworker pointed to Lina’s parents being able and willing to provide her with a safe environment to grow and thrive.
The newly reunified family hosts a party to celebrate, with CASA volunteer Nate, Lina’s grandparents and aunt, and many other friends and family members present.
Lina is home and happy. Her parents are equipped with the resources and support they need to give her the safe, happy childhood she deserves.
*This is a fictional story based on real-life situations for Texas children, families and CASA volunteers.
Order the 2022 Texas CASA Calendar: Lina’s Story on the CASA marketplace!