Monday, Jun 4, 2018
This June, we celebrate the important accomplishments of parents and the many professionals, including Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), who work on getting children home safe after they’ve been in the foster care system. It's Child Advocates' goal to make sure children are supported with a CASA and have what they need to move forward in a positive path, when reunifying with their family.
The Fisher Family’s Story
After Steven and his wife Veronica lost custody of their children because of their drug and alcohol addictions, their three daughters Savannah, age 7, Isabella, age 10, and Yvette, age 12, were placed in foster care with their aunt and uncle. That’s when Susan Maciel-Finley became Yvette’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). A few months later, she stepped up to be a CASA for all three girls.
“My role was to listen to the girls, to be their friend and to be their voice in dependency hearings,” says Susan. “When they were with me, they got to be kids again without the family drama. This was particularly important for Yvette, the oldest child who had taken on a parental role with her younger sisters. When she was with me, she got to be a young girl again,” explains Susan.
“Susan was someone I could open up to,” Yvette says. “She’s wonderful. She’s like my best friend.”
When Veronica saw how Susan was helping her children, she says she was inspired to continue on her path toward recovery.
“It’s really nice how the CASA program works,” remarks Veronica. “Kids need support. The CASA program did a lot for my kids and inspired us to be better parents. The kids see there is a better life. They got so much love and encouragement from their CASA.”
After completing a court-mandated program to regain custody of their children, the Fishers were reunited with their girls in December 2016.
“The Fishers are a tremendous inspiration to those of us who work in this field, to those of us who dedicate our lives to working with families in the dependency system,” says Santa Clara County Dependency Court Judge Shawna Schwarz.
“It feels really good to be a family again,” says Isabella. A year after the family was reunified, Susan continued and still continues to be a part of the girls’ lives.
“Susan is so calm and has a lot of patience,” says Veronica. “She doesn’t judge. As their CASA, she guided my daughters to make better choices and display better behaviors. When she stepped up to be a CASA for all three girls, I was like ‘wow, this lady is something!’ Now she’s not just a part of the children’s lives, she’s part of our lives. She’s family.”
For Steven, being able to be a parent again means everything. “I take them fishing, we go to the library and rent games. I help brush their hair for school. I get to be their dad again,” says Steven, adding “We’re ready to build new memories.”