*Names have been changed and facts have been altered to protect the identity of the parties involved.
Kassie had arrived in Montana expecting a couple weeks of vacation with her mother before returning to live with her father in Buffalo, NY. Unfortunately, when it came time to return, her father refused to take her back in, forcing her mother to care for a daughter she couldn’t handle or support. Kassie is a brittle diabetic, causing her levels to shift from extremely high to extremely low. With the shift in sugar level goes her mood: pleasant one day, threatening to harm herself the next. Finally, her mother had enough and sent her to Shodair…and never picked her up.
Kassie was placed in a foster home an hour north of town. A city girl at heart, Kassie found little she enjoyed about living in the woods and struggled to get along with the other children in the home. About a month after she arrived, she decided it was time to leave. With the support of her mother, she traveled by foot to the bus station and attempted to buy a ticket out. Fortunately, her mother second guessed her decision to help and stopped the bus station from selling her a ticket. Kassie was picked up by the police and sent back to the foster family. A second escape attempt was too much though, and she was placed in a youth home, feeling more homeless, hopeless and unwanted than before.
She still struggles to find anything positive about her situation, and as each possible placement falls through, she leans more and more on the one source of hope and caring she does have: her CASA. In her mind, the only one who truly cares and is truly trying to help her is her CASA volunteer.
Cole was picked up by the police when his father was arrested on outstanding warrants. With nowhere else to go he was placed in a foster home. The foster parent reported that he was covered with bruises and had a complete melt-down when it came to bathe shower. Night terrors were a nightly ordeal for him, even 2 years into the case, and the stories he told about his life experiences sounded like a script from a poorly written drama – with so many outlandish occurrences that it could not possibly be true. For the most part, he and his father, an unregistered sex offender, had lived as transients, traveling from state to state.
The father insisted he had been awarded sole custody of his son at the age of two because Cole’s mother, Veronica, was incompetent and dangerous. He even had a video of Veronica that reinforced this view. Cole expressed tremendous fear of her as well, although the only thing he could relate was to recount what his father had told him about her.
As the volunteer worked the case she began to question whether the information about Cole’s mother was accurate. Cole’s social worker was clear that it was her job to try to reunify him with his father and stated she did not have time to pursue an investigation of an out of state mother who had already lost custody of her son. Despite this, the CASA tracked down Cole’s mom, who was living in Arizona. After a few conversations with her it became obvious to the CASA that the state did not have accurate information and really needed to consider both sides of the story regarding custody. Veronica had been paying child support for Cole and he was on her medical insurance, she also provided information that gave quite a different picture of the custody agreement. The CASA connected Veronica with Cole’s social worker After a very lengthy process Cole was eventually happily reunified with his mother in Arizona. Without the diligent efforts of this CASA volunteer this would not have been possible.