Lucas*, 13, had been living with his foster family for five months, about an hour-and-a-half away from his hometown. Every day he missed his dog Ursula.
Sarah Jones was a brand new CASA volunteer at CASA for Hunt County, and her first case happened to be Lucas’ case. As soon as she met him, she knew Lucas adored Ursula and needed to be with her.
“There’s been times when we’re driving in my car and… we’re going on a playdate and he just starts basically crying in the backseat about how he had a bad day because he misses the dog so much,” said Sarah. There was not a single visit, no matter the type or purpose, where Lucas didn’t bring up his beloved Ursula.
One of the first things Sarah ever told her CASA supervisor, Rebecca Welch, was how attached Lucas was to his dog. She repeated that message after each visit with him. Sarah thought Ursula would be a great emotional support for him, especially since he has special needs.
After about a month, there was a court hearing for Lucas’ case. Lucas’ advocates talked to Child Protective Services (CPS) and the attorney ad litem about Ursula. The attorney ad litem told the judge how CASA had brought up Lucas’ dog and felt that it was in his best interest to have her living with him in his foster home. The judge agreed and spoke with Lucas’ family of origin about CASA’s recommendations, who also agreed that it would be best if Ursula could live with him. The judge ordered that Ursula be returned to Lucas within 24 hours.
CPS quickly spoke up, explaining they had to make sure Lucas’ foster family was okay with having Ursula, and needed a vet to ensure she was healthy. The judge understood, and changed the order to bringing Ursula to Lucas 24 hours after the foster family agreed to housing her. Sarah was one step ahead, however. She told the judge she had already talked to the foster family, and they were happy to welcome Ursula into their home.
Everyone was in agreement at the hearing. Lucas’ attorney and Sarah found a nonprofit organization, the Rainbow Room, that offered to cover the vet costs.
“Oftentimes, when kids get removed they lose absolutely everything, including family connections,” said Rebecca. “For a child to go into a home where they don’t have anybody that they know, having the emotional support of their pet from their home could be really helpful. It can help them emotionally, it can help them cope with the changes and help them make it through a little bit easier.”
A few days later, Lucas’s caseworker took Ursula to the vet for her checkup. Once she was all-clear, Sarah met there, and put Ursula in the front seat of her car.
The caseworker followed behind—they both couldn’t wait to see Lucas’ reaction. Ursula tucked her tail, nervous and unaware that she was on the way to reunite with her favorite human. Once they arrived at the foster home, Sarah called the family to bring Lucas outside.
Lucas walked down and saw Ursula. She jumped on top of him, her tail wagging furiously.
“What are you doing here?” Lucas asked. Ursula, on the other hand, knew exactly why she was there.
“She’s come to live with you,” Sarah said.
In total shock, Lucas looked at Sarah and his foster mom, as if asking, “Is this okay?” Right after Lucas got absolute reassurance, he couldn’t stop petting, kissing and simply loving Ursula.
At last, Lucas didn’t have to ask anyone about how his beloved Ursula was doing, or cry about how much he missed her—she was there to be by his side for as long as he needed.
*Name changed for privacy.