TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT FOSTER CARE
Foster care is an important part of our community. Children who need a permanent home receive the assistance they need, and Family Court makes decisions on where they will be placed. Unfortunately, the foster care system is overwhelmed, and there are too many children that need care.
On Long Island alone there are approximately 1,200 children in the foster care system. Because there are so many children to account for, this could lead to possible unintended neglect and children slipping through the cracks of the system.
EAC Network’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program steps in to support children in foster care and makes recommendations on their care. When a Family Court judge feels that a case needs further investigation, they can assign a trained CASA volunteer to act as an advocate for the child by providing an objective opinion to the court that promotes the child’s best interests. CASA volunteers and will work closely with all parties involved in the child’s case to determine the best course of action.
Tina, a former CASA client, shared her terrific success story about her experience with CASA.
“I was a young woman with a rough, abusive background – no help, no support, and all the odds stacked against me. I got pregnant at 16 and had dropped out of school. By the time I was 20 I was a single mom and could not care for my two children. I could not afford to feed them, so I gave them to my grandmother in Brooklyn, but she was soon evicted from her apartment. After that, my two children were placed in foster care.
When I first met EAC Network in court, I had no smiles, only tears. Both mine and my children’s attorneys were treating me like ‘just another file.’ Negative feedback only made me withdraw further into myself. There seemed to be no turning this around; I was going to lose my two children forever.
EAC Network’s CASA advocate started spending time with me. All I needed was someone who took the time to care: a helping hand, and an encouraging word, which I seldom heard. I needed someone to believe that I had some kind, any kind, of potential. CASA worked with the social worker assigned to my children and enrolled me in individual therapy and parenting classes in preparation for dealing properly with behavioral issues once my children could return.
I also enrolled in Suburban Technical School where I kept a B+ average and graduated as a medical assistant with placement in a hospital. I plan on continuing school to obtain my LPN so I can build a stable future for my family.
The judge relied on the CASA advocate to be her eyes and ears, to come forward with the correct information regarding my children, me, and the foster parents, to make sure that adequate resources were made available, and that the orders placed by the court were acted upon. CASA lent a helping hand to me, and I grabbed it and held on for life!”
Tina’s experience demonstrates the important work that CASA provides for Family Court. Because of her difficult situation, she was facing the prospect of losing her children forever. She was feeling disheartened, and didn’t know how to make things right. CASA worked with her and her children to ensure everyone received the support they needed.
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Sarah Muller is the Development & Marketing Assistant for EAC Network. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in English.