A CASA volunteer is often filling many missing gaps in a child’s need for attention and representation, and volunteer Mary Sharpe is no exception. During Mary’s first CASA case, she found herself taking on the role of tutor, mentor, listener, and even well intentioned detective. In a case where there had been four different social workers in 15 months, Mary best describes her role as a committed and consistent adult friend to the 13-year-old boy for whom she advocates.
“I provide some stability,” Mary said. “I show up when I say I will and try to listen with an open mind. He hasn’t had a whole lot of that in his life.”
The teen boy that Mary works with is one of seven children taken from their mother’s care due to chronic substance abuse and neglect issues. Fortunately, he was placed in a caring foster home. At one point in the case, however, the court began to look at reunifying the mother with her son, as she had apparently been showing compliance in her drug treatment.
With anxious feelings about this decision, Mary made some phone calls to check up on the mother’s involvement in the Narcotics Anonymous program. She discovered that the mother had been forging initials and feigning participation in her substance abuse treatment.
Mary included this vital information in her report to the court. A drug test confirmed her suspicions: the mother tested dirty. As a result of these findings, the court deemed the decision for reunification premature, and agreed that continued placement in foster care was in the best interest of the teen.
“It hurts my heart to dig out lies,” Mary said. “However, my responsibility is to the child and ensuring that he is in a stable, loving home.”
Beyond securing safe placement, Mary continues to be a reliable and supportive friend to the boy. When he was struggling in school, Mary called on her skills as a former English teacher and met weekly with the teen to help guide his preparation for an important upcoming term paper. The after school ritual was enjoyable, and Mary witnessed the boy’s excitement build as the project began to materialize. He called Mary on the day he received his “A+” grade.
“The success in front of his peers was a giant leap for him,” Mary said. “I have seen incredible growth and security settle in.”
Mary said that her greatest measure of success would be to look down the road and see the young man for whom she advocates as a healthy, contributing human being.
“We live in a nice community,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you have played a role in making it that way.”
Since the completion of this article, this teen boy’s foster parents have become his guardians. They continue to facilitate contact between him and his mother, leaving the door open to eventual reunification should she be successful in her drug rehabilitation program and the boy wishes to return to her care
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