Love Them Anyway

“The children who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways,” said the sign, tacked to a pin board with a thousand other scraps of paper. Seen on a visit to a child in a daycare who had recently been removed from home, this quote really resonated. It is so, so true. Bed wetting, roaming about the house at night, throwing tantrums, hyper focusing, hoarding food, refusing to follow directions, ignorance of proper hygiene; CASA has encountered a child exhibiting one or more of all of these behaviors. Does it mean the child wants to be unlovable, to isolate? No, it means just the opposite. This child needs to be loved, like all humans do, but does not know how to offer or accept it and cannot trust that anyone will be able to give it unconditionally. Sometimes, children in the system even sabotage good placements because they believe that eventually their foster parents will reject them. To them it can be better to get the hurt over with sooner rather than later.

So how do children themselves define love? See the quotes below for some examples-

  • “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” — Greg, age 8
  • “I’m in favor of love as long as it doesn’t happen when Dinosaurs is on television.” — Jill, age 6
  • “Don’t say you love somebody and then change your mind. Love isn’t like picking what movie you want to watch.” — Natalie, age 9
  • “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.  So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca – age 8
  • “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.  You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”  Billy – age 4
  • “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7
  • “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget.” Jessica – age 8

To see more visit RinkWorks and SoBadSoGood.


Dani: Starved, Neglected,and Adopted

From the Tampa Bay Times

“The family had lived in the rundown rental house for almost three years when someone first saw a child’s face in the window.

A little girl, pale, with dark eyes, lifted a dirty blanket above the broken glass and peered out, one neighbor remembered.

Everyone knew a woman lived in the house with her boyfriend and two adult sons. But they had never seen a child there, had never noticed anyone playing in the overgrown yard.

The girl looked young, 5 or 6, and thin. Too thin. Her cheeks seemed sunken; her eyes were lost.

The child stared into the square of sunlight, then slipped away.

Months went by. The face never reappeared.

Just before noon on July 13, 2005, a Plant City police car pulled up outside that shattered window. Two officers went into the house — and one stumbled back out.

Clutching his stomach, the rookie retched in the weeds.

Plant City Detective Mark Holste had been on the force for 18 years when he and his young partner were sent to the house on Old Sydney Road to stand by during a child abuse investigation. Someone had finally called the police.

They found a car parked outside. The driver’s door was open and a woman was slumped over in her seat, sobbing. She was an investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“Unbelievable,” she told Holste. “The worst I’ve ever seen.”

And an update on how Dani is doing now…


A Fundraiser for St. James

St JamesSt. James Home and School, located right in town on Logan Avenue, is getting ready to host its two biggest annual fundraisers. One is their Friday fish fry which will take place every Friday until March 18th. This event is open to the public. Take-outs are available and seniors are given a $1 discount off of the $9.50. Family discounts are available as well.

Secondly, St. James will be hosting its Rainbow Club monthly prize contest. Tickets are $5 each or six for $25.

Runaways Aren’t Throwaways

as seen at

From The Richmond Justice Initiative

Barbara Amaya’s Story (edited edition)

My name is Barbara Amaya and I am a survivor of trafficking.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in Northern Virginia. When I was only 10 years old, family members abused me. Before the abuse I was a pretty normal little girl: I loved to read, collect stamps, draw and I was a member of the Barbie fan club. Unfortunately, after I was abused, I became a different little girl. No one helped me or validated the abuse I had suffered, so part of me went into hiding and I became depressed. I didn’t want to be around anyone, no longer went to school, and eventually ran away when I was 12.

When I ran away, I was a walking target for traffickers and predators who look for damaged children: I had been abused, I was depressed and was in desperate need of help. It didn’t take long for traffickers to find me. Surprisingly it was a couple – a man and a woman – who found me on the streets of Washington D.C. They took me off of the streets where I was hungry and alone and brought me into their home where they fed me and seemed to care for me. That is, until they initiated me into the world of trafficking. They used me for a few months until they no longer needed me and then sold me to another trafficker. Right in our nation’s capitol, I was sold into trafficking to a man named Moses. Soon after buying me, Moses took me to New York City where he trafficked me for 8 years.

During my time on the streets of New York I was abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, addicted to drugs, jailed, and more all before I was 18 years old.

To ease my pain, I became addicted to drugs. This habit became very expensive and I was no longer a valuable commodity to my trafficker, so he released me into New York. It was terrible; I was addicted and alone in the city. Thankfully, at a methadone clinic where I had sought treatment, I met a woman named Anita who helped me to find my sister who had apparently been living in the nearby city of Philadelphia and that Christmas, she helped me reunite with my family.

After a very difficult time detoxing off of methadone I started to slowly get my life back. I lived in Washington State, Mississippi and eventually came back to Virginia where I got married and tried to have a baby. Soon after I starting trying to have a baby, I found out that because of all the trauma I had endured on the streets, I was infertile. Somehow, I think it was a miracle; I was able to have treatments and can happily say that I was able to have a daughter.

In all of that moving around and having my daughter, I kept my past a secret. No one knew about the years I had been trafficked or abused but me. Then one night, when my daughter was 15, she decided to run away. My past came rushing back to me and I was so afraid that the same things that happened to me would happen to my daughter. I couldn’t just sit around, so I spent the whole night making phone calls and looking for her. Thankfully, I found her the next morning and, shortly after, told her about my story. After that, she never ran away again and she is doing well today. I have a wonderful grandson and I live a content and quiet life.

NCSL states that…

Studies Have Shown That:
  • One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away>
  • Youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults
  • 75 percent of runaways are female
  • Estimates of the number of pregnant homeless girls are between 6 and 22 percent
  • Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (GLBTQ)
  • 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused , and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member
  • 75 percent percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless or Runaways:

  • Family problems: Many youth run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, mental health disorders of a family member, substance abuse and addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the family is unable to provide for their specific mental health or disability needs. Still some youth are pushed out of their homes because their parents cannot afford to care for them.
  • Transitions from foster care and other public systems: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets. Youth that live in residential or institutional facilities often become homeless upon discharge. In addition, very few homeless youth are able to seek housing in emergency shelters due to the lack of shelter beds for young people and shelter admission policies.
  • Economic problems: Some youth become homeless when their families fall into difficult financial situations resulting from lack of affordable housing, difficulty obtaining or maintaining a job, or lack of medical insurance or other benefits. These youth become homeless with their families, but later can find themselves separated from them and/or living on the streets alone, often due to shelter or child welfare policies.[i]

Consequences of Life on the Street for Homeless and Runaway Youth:

  • Increased likelihood of high-risk behaviors, including engaging in unprotected sex, having multiple sex partners and participating in intravenous drug use.  Youth who engage in these high-risk behaviors are more likely to remain homeless and be more resistant to change.

  • Greater risk of severe anxiety and depression, suicide, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem.

  • Increased likelihood of exchanging sex for food, clothing and shelter ( also known as “survival sex”) or dealing drugs to meet basic needs. Forty percent of African American youth and 36 percent of Caucasian youth who experienced homelessness or life on the street sold drugs, primarily marijuana, for money.

Remember if you are a homeless youth or in any way in danger every QuikTrip location is a safe place. Staff there are trained to keep you safe until help can arrive.

Seperate Households…Same Family

From Deseret News

Davis and Baton are almost seven years into shared parenting in the wake of divorce, which makes them both trendy and unusual. Shared parenting is growing in popularity — several states already have laws creating a presumption that children will be raised by both parents post-breakup, and 20 state legislatures considered such laws last year, with varying results, although a presumption of shared parenting is very rare. Only 17 percent of custody cases result in shared parenting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

What is shared parenting? Wikipedia defines it as a collaborative arrangement in child custody or divorce determinations in which both parents have the right and responsibility of being actively involved in the raising of the child(ren).” This means each parent gets the opportunity to participate in the daily lives of their children by staying cordial with their ex and, sometimes, even their ex’s family and friend groups. As you can see by the paragraph above, this way of collaboration is slowly becoming law as well. In fact, the state of Ohio has released a guide to help families establish this practice. The index reads as follows…

Shared ParentingYet, in many CASA cases, this can be a sticking point. Why is that? Because when parents are separated but both available to complete services, either one of their homes can be considered’home’. Therefore, at one time, both parents can be working toward a ‘Return Home’ goal. New CASAs often ask, “Does this mean its a race to see who can complete services faster?” Like in nearly every grey area question the answer is “Sometimes.”

Remember, kids who are served by CASAs typically don’t have one appropriate parent. If they did the children would be living with that parent (or placed with the appropriate parent at the intervention of DCFS). The children who end up in the system have two parents who have been deemed unfit to care for them. Let’s consider these examples. Can you tell us which case would require a CASA?

*Family 1- DCFS is called when Ava, a two year old minor, is found wandering outside her home. DCFS receives the call from a driver who, passing by the house on the 45 mph road, is concerned that the child could wander into traffic as he/she did not see a supervising adult outside. When DCFS responds Ava’s mother, who has primary care of her, is found inebriated. She states that Ava is frequently allowed to wander outside but knows to return when it starts to get dark. Ava’s father, who sees her every other weekend and on Wednesdays, is Hector. Hector has petitioned the courts in their Family case previously for full custody of Ava, as he has had some concerns that her mother is not appropriate. Hector stated that he has never seen Ava’s mother be intoxicated around their child firsthand but has had concerns about Ava’s complaints that her mother sleeps all the time and cannot be woken. He pays child support for Ava and is employed. He has never resided full time with Ava and lives with a girlfriend and her one year old son.

*Family 2- DCFS receives a call from a concerned teacher stating that, after being absent for some time, sixteen year old Karl returns to school with a bruise on his face. When asked what happened Karl stated that he ran away from home and, when he returned a few days later, his father physically punished him. With further inquiry it is revealed that Karl has bruises to his back and arms as well. Karl stated that he knows he deserved such punishment, as his father was so worried about him when he ran away. Karl’s mother has just been released from prison for a drug trafficking charge. She has a history of incarceration for drug related offenses, and Karl has only been able to visit her once or twice in the past three years. She is out, stated she has a stable home, but has not engaged in substance abuse services as of yet.

Family 1 would not need court intervention, so long as the father has no previous indications on record and was able to provide an appropriate environment for Ava. In fact, he may take Ava and be referred for intact family services so that the Department could monitor Ava’s transition and provide any counseling/developmental screening as necessary. CASA does not get involved with intact services so long as the parents are compliant with the Department.

In case 2 however, it is likely that the courts would become involved since neither parent would be able to provide an appropriate home for Karl. Karl may wind up in traditional foster care or be placed with a relative/fictive kin. Both Karl’s parents would be given the ‘Return Home’ goal and both be provided services to achieve that goal. Karl would only have to reunite with one of them to consider this goal achieved.

So what happens once the case closes? Do the parents practice shared parenting? Honestly, CASA would not know. Some cases end up in Family Court where a judge can help them decide custody/visit arrangements. Some cases close and visitation with the other parent is left up to the custodial parent. If, say in Karl’s case, he is returned to his mother and his father never participates in services and, at case closure, is still adamant that Karl “was asking for it” perhaps Karl would not be permitted to see his father until he reaches adulthood. While CASA could advocate for continuing visits while the case remained open, anything other than that is outside the scope of the CASA role. Once the case is closed the family is on their own to make time sharing decisions.

*These cases and all examples used for this blog are fictional. Boone County CASA does not and cannot share filed case information with non-party sources.

It’s More than Art

We loved this SoulPancake video. In it you are able to see functioning, relatively happy adults become emotional and touched by their experimental art therapy session. What really resonated with us is that nearly everyone mentioned their family and, more specifically, their parents. This brought the kiddos we serve to mind. What would these paintings be like for a child who has experienced abuse and neglect?

In this age where adult coloring books are a thing and children are getting referred to play therapy, we are learning more everyday about expression. This is so, so very important to those children too small, too quiet, or too uncertain to be able to express in words the impact of their experiences. Can you imagine never having held a book, a paint brush, or a crayon as a child? We’ve tried, because unfortunately there are children who have experienced this.