There are many heroes in our world – the volunteers who give their time, the donors who give of their resources, the staff that goes above and beyond, and especially the children who show amazing resilience time and again. The stories are true, but names and identifying details may be changed for privacy purposes.
Thanks to the efforts of her CASA volunteer shown in the photo with her, Christina is living in a safe home. When her mother was battling substance abuse, it was easy for a judge to grant the grandmother temporary guardianship – it happens all the time. But when the mother comes back to court to regain custody of her child, the judge often has to make a decision based on two completely different stories from mom and grandma as to the living conditions in each house. What is the judge to do?
Both mom and grandma have attorneys representing them and swearing that their stories are true. Mom declares that she is “clean” and attending support group meetings regularly, but that grandma is spoiling Christina’s view of her mother unfairly. Grandma, of course, says Christina’s mother is lying and doesn’t yet have a good, stable environment for the child.
Thanks to Children In Placement, the judge was able to assign a CASA volunteer to visit and examine all sides of the story and make a recommendation. But that’s not all. Christina was not doing well in school so the volunteer met with Christina’s teacher and the school psychologist. Together they came up with a plan to move Christina to a new school district, with more resources. Now Christina is doing better in school and is no longer considered a candidate for special education. A child with a Children In Placement CASA volunteer has more successful outcomes on many levels.
Jahvern spent 8 years in the foster care system, and says he is the person he is today because of it. “I truly believe that part of my life was just a stepping stone and a learning experience. It’s helped get me where I am today and it will not be forgotten.” Now he is officially one of Connecticut’s FosterClub AllStars and a leader of Children In Placement’s empowerment program for youth.
Each year, one hundred young people who have experienced foster care are named Outstanding Young Leaders in celebration of National Foster Care Month. These recipients from all across the U.S. are honored by FosterClub, the national network for youth in foster care, for their leadership, accomplishments, educational achievement, and community service.
Our Connecticut Youth Alliance summer program was coordinated by Jahvern, and he continues his outstanding efforts on behalf of other foster youth. As the CYA Coordinator and co-facilitator the CYA-Summer Media Institute, he assisted several youth in the creation of short digital video projects that uncover the face of foster youth.
Jahvern was first introduced to Connecticut Youth Alliance (CYA) through his work as a digital media intern at The Color of Words, LLC (a youth-driven new media design studio). Since 2007, The Color of Words, has worked with CYA youth on the development of their digital stories as well as advocacy videos. When Jahvern learned of CYA's mission he quickly signed up to become a member and has been instrumental in the development and production of several advocacy videos. This fall he will continue his work as CYA Coordinator and has plans of expanding CYA's reach throughout the state. Stay tuned and check out the new social media tools created by the group.
Jason was inspired to move beyond his roller coaster past in the foster care system and start community college in the fall. He had been recently reunited with his mother, when she announced that she was moving down south and he would have to leave school if he was going to stay with her. It was just another of many roadblocks his mother threw in his path to sabotage his success.
For foster youth, getting into college is only half of the battle. The other half is to stay in college and finish - a fete that can be difficult to accomplish, especially if you have little or no family support. Our Connecticut Youth Alliance (CYA) project is designed to work with youth who are aging out of the foster care system and to help them to work toward and realize their goals.
Jason stayed in college and completed his first year. It's a struggle, but with the support and empowerment skills he gained through the Connecticut Youth Alliance he is continuing on a positive path.
A new volunteer comes forward with a story of her past and why she wants to help children now. She begins "I remember the time I ran away from my father, wishing his comfortable house – with the newly decorated living room and formal dining area complete with two sets of china – could have been a home. It was all so unnecessary, the trouble he caused and the fear he inspired."
"He would call me a stupid and simple girl in Italian. 'Donnicciola' became my new nickname. He believed it was his right to abuse his children. But because he had the trappings of a privileged life and my mother shared a room in a boarding house with my grandmother, the authorities assumed I would be better off in the glitz.
Linda's past makes her all too aware that thorough investigations are needed in order for a judge to make a proper placement for a child. There's nothing worse than having an abused or neglected child suffer further abuse by a system that is overburdened and overwhelmed. That's why she's a Children In Placement volunteer.