There Is Nothing Like Family: A CASA Advocacy Story

In August 2021, CASA of South Texas volunteer Bertha De La Rosa was appointed to advocate for three brothers: 13-year-old twins Brian and Ian, and 10-year-old Adam.* The boys had already been in foster care for five years, and their parents’ rights had been terminated, when she received the case. When Bertha read the file and saw that the permanency goal was to send the boys to Mexico to live with family, her eyes lit up with memories of her own childhood. She grew up in Mexico up until age 7, when her family moved to Texas.

“There’s something in my spirit; I just have a certain fondness or love for Mexico,” Bertha said. “I have good memories, you know, of being with family, surrounded by family. Spending Christmas in San Luis Potosí, doing the Posadas… Those are the memories that I carry with me.”

The plan is to send the boys to live with their half-sister, Gabriela*, her grandparents, and two of her aunts, who have all agreed to step up and collaboratively care for them. They live near Monterrey, all within 30 minutes of each other. While they aren’t all related to the boys by blood, they’re as close as any other family. Brian, Ian and Adam often bring up memories of spending time there when they were very young, before they entered foster care.

“When they visit with their sister, they talk about memories. Is that pond still there? Do you all go fishing? They refer to her grandfather as their grandpa. Does grandpa still have those cows? And Gabriela will tell them, Oh, yes, remember this and remember that?” said Bertha. “It just warms my heart to hear them talk about all these memories. And that’s where they want to return. That is their home.”

Right now, Brian, Ian and Adam are in three placements in different areas of the state: Adam is in a foster home, and the twins are in two different residential treatment centers (RTCs). They’re all doing well, especially given everything they’ve been through. They’re in therapy, they’re keeping up in school and they’re involved with extracurriculars like football and band.

Bertha De La Rosa

But, Bertha said, they’re impatient—they want to be somewhere they feel safe and loved. They’re eager, not only to be in Mexico with family, but to be back together after being separated in care.

The family in Monterrey has gone through a home study and they are ready to bring the boys to live with them, but right now, it’s a waiting game: the Mexican government is requiring that the boys become Mexican nationals before they can move there. It’s been a slow, bureaucracy-filled and complicated process, but Bertha is doing everything she can within her role as a CASA volunteer to support the family and keep up the urgency.

She recently contacted the boys’ mother, who is a Mexican national and may be able to help move things forward. The conversation went well, and she is onboard and willing to help.

As a native Spanish speaker, Bertha has also built a strong, trusting relationship with the family in Mexico. Gabriela is bilingual, but her grandparents only speak Spanish. Bertha has been able to get to know them all individually, as well as have frank conversations with the family about the boys—they’ve discussed what they’ve been through, potential behavior issues and triggers to be prepared for, their medical history and more—to ensure that they’re fully prepared to meet their needs. She has also been an important liaison between the family, CPS and others on the case.

Bertha visits with the boys on a monthly basis, taking the opportunity to teach them snippets of Spanish in preparation for the move. For Brian, she bought a Lotería game, for Ian, a book of vocabulary words and phrases, and for Adam, some flashcards. They practice when she visits, and she encourages them to learn on their own as well.

Over their five years in foster care, Ian has been in 18 different placements, Brian has had 14, and Adam has had 10. They’re past ready to have a permanent home, and to be with people who love them.

“They want to be there, and just do normal, everyday things. Where they’re at right now, they’re safe and they’re provided for, but I don’t know how to put it into words… It’s just not family. It is not family. The warmth, the love, the care… the hair tousling, you know?” Bertha said. “There is nothing like family.”

The case is ongoing and Bertha plans to be there every step of the way, supporting the family through the process and doing whatever it takes to get Brian, Ian and Adam home.

“I’ll do my part. I’ll bother the attorney. Hey, have you followed up with this? Have they done this? Do you know this? I’ll be a nag! Because time flies, and I don’t want these children in care too much longer,” Bertha said. “People will ask me, ‘Don’t you get tired after working your 40 hours, and then you have to go do this?’ I can never say that I’m tired. I’ll say that I’m frustrated—frustrated with the system. But that’s also part of the reason why I’m there for the children. I have to advocate for them.”

We often say that CASA is not an everyday volunteer opportunity. As Bertha’s story shows, it requires commitment, compassion, strength and patience. While we are in the middle of these brothers’ story, we believe it will have a happy ending, because they have someone in their lives who won’t stop fighting for them and is supporting them along the way. If you are ready to step into this important role, you will make a true difference—not only in a child’s life, but in your own.

There are thousands of children in foster care who still need an advocate. Will you help?

*Names changed for privacy.