When Bella met her CASA volunteer for the first time, she was only two years old. She did not like to play with other children and was afraid of adults. She frequently threw tantrums and often avoided social interaction with anyone.
“Getting to know Bella was a challenge because she pushed everyone away,” recalls Ninet Moradi, Bella’s CASA volunteer. “The poor girl didn’t trust anybody.”
It’s no wonder. Bella had been removed from her relatives’ home when she was a baby due to her parents’ substance abuse and the caregiver’s mental health issues. Later she was cared for by another relative who abused and neglected her before she was removed from that home and put in a loving relative’s home. Ninet was not deterred. She visited Bella every week and employed different ways to draw her out of her shell. She played games with Bella and read books to her and took her on outings.
“I made sure I followed through on my commitments to Bella and showed up on a regular basis. There really wasn’t any magic formula but helping Bella took a lot of patience and understanding on my part but I was determined to break through her shell.”
Over the next three years, Ninet worked with Bella to gain her trust and teach her how to problem-solve issues as they came up instead of yelling or getting angry. Slowly, Bella began to trust Ninet and those around her. She stopped throwing tantrums and began to play and interact with others. Most importantly, she began to experience happiness and smile more often.
There were a lot of ups and downs as Bella spent time with two different caregivers before she was adopted into a permanent, loving home. Through it all, Ninet was there with patience and love while Bella went through the emotional roller coaster of moving from one foster family to another and then eventually her permanent home. Shortly before Bella was adopted, Ninet took Bella to a store to pick a keepsake to remember her by. Bella chose two small globes and declared “I think you should keep one too so you can remember me and not be sad. I want you to be happy like I am.”
“That moment melted my heart,” Ninet recalls smiling.