July 20, 2021
CASA volunteer helps teen reconnect with her community
Mary* is a volunteer with Oakland County CASA in Michigan. She was assigned by a judge to the case of 17-year-old Anna*, who was being parented by an aunt and uncle after the untimely death of her mother when Anna was 7 years old. The family emigrated from Syria in 2000, and English was their second language.
Youth who have experienced abuse or neglect may face mental health challenges that can impact their overall well-being. Over time, Anna showed increased signs of psychosis, and her aunt and uncle kept her out of school, not knowing what else to do. They desired to return to their homeland for an extended period of time and had no one else to care for Anna. As a result, the courts took temporary custody of Anna and placed her in a shelter until an assessment could be completed and a plan developed to address her multiple emotional needs. During Mary’s first few months of visits, she observed Anna, who was nonverbal, constantly writing in a journal she kept with her and speaking (no understandable words) to people who were not in the room. Mary became an important member of the treatment team as she formed relationships with Anna’s child care worker, therapist, psychiatrist and school personnel.
With consistent visitation and Mary working with Anna’s group home staff, Anna learned to accomplish many of her daily living skills. Anna progressed to the point where she could go on outings with Mary, and particularly enjoyed eating at the assorted bakeries that specialized in Middle Eastern food. Mary continued to contact supportive community organizations to learn more about Anna’s culture and religion. Mary also took Anna on trips back to her old neighborhood where she was reacquainted with an old neighbor. Since Anna was aging out of foster care, the neighbor completed paperwork to become her guardian. When Anna was placed in virtual school, Mary requested an individualized education plan and a full psychological/psychiatric evaluation so she could receive special education services tailored to her cognitive abilities. Overall, Anna is doing much better because of the specialized support her CASA volunteer Mary provided as she makes the transition to adulthood.
Volunteers like Mary who take the time to develop a special rapport with the children and youth they serve can make a life-changing difference. You can help National CASA/GAL and our network of 950 state and local programs continue to change a child’s story through your support today.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy. Image is not of actual subjects.