Monday, Sep 3, 2018
THE WORLEY FAMILY: A CASA SUCCESS STORY
Mike and Leesa Worley were no different than you or me. They worked, had a family, and, like many of us, wondered what else they could do in their community, namely for the local children. That’s when they decided to become foster parents.
“Our vision at that time was one of providing a temporary home for children while their parents followed court orders to have their children returned to them,” Leesa recalls.
But re-building a home and a future for displaced children, the couple quickly realized, was seldom easy or without curveballs. Soon after becoming certified, the Department of Human Services (DHS) called, asking if they could take a pair of siblings for “emergency placement.” Mike and Leesa agreed, and within minutes a van pulled up to their home with two screaming children in tow.
The children were a brother and sister, Angel and Kendall, only 2 ½ and 8 months old. They had been taken away from their parents because Kendall had been shaken severely by her father, leaving her permanently disabled.
“Our world was instantly turned upside down,” Leesa said, “Both of them suffered from night terrors, fits of rage and confusion, and behaviors that are just too horrible to describe. [But] we embraced them with love, kindness and peace.”
Over the next two years, Mike and Leesa kept the children in their care, slowly letting them grow in their love and trust for them while helping in the ways they could with the mom’s treatment plan. When the mom convinced the Court she was once again able to care for her children and ensure their safety, Angel and Kendall were returned to her.
“At this point, we did not know anything about CASA,” Leesa recalls.
Five months later, they got another call from DHS-- Angel had been rushed to the ER for emergency brain trauma surgery. The mother’s new boyfriend had thrown him against a sink and wall, with Kendall unfortunately bearing witness. He survived the trauma and the boyfriend was sent to prison, but once again, the siblings were left questioning their futures. The Court decided the mom could not be trusted to keep the children safe, and they were sent to live with their grandfather.
At this point in the case, a CASA Volunteer was finally assigned, and that is when the couple began to see a change in how the case moved forward. “We always wondered if a CASA Volunteer would have been involved in [the case] early on, could we have prevented some of the dangerous situations that came about,” said Mike.
The CASA on their case, Harriett Bauer, finally gave them hope, being a constant in visiting the children in their new placement, and invaluably informing the Court about their welfare. She became the sole impartial voice for these children in the court system, always keeping their best interests front and center. Almost immediately, Harriett began to see something was not right.
“The children did not seem to be thriving” says Leesa. “They were often unresponsive and did not make eye contact with her when she spoke to them.”
When Harriett came for her usual visit and found Kendall losing hair by the clumps, she convinced the grandfather to take her to the doctor. She was losing hair due to extreme anxiety and stress and was prescribed medication, which Harriett made sure she was taking. Harriett amped up her visitation schedule and never failed to relay all she was finding to the judge.
Within months of their new placement, the grandfather decided he could no longer care for the children and made the call to DHS to send them back to foster care. Mike and Leesa knew what a hard decision this must have been for the grandfather, however, they knew it was for the best for the children. Mike remarked, “This was actually one of the best days of our lives.” When they received the call asking if they would take Kendall and Angel back into their homes, they answered with a resounding “YES!”
Mike and Leesa were finally able to ensure their safety and give them the love and support they needed. Harriett was one of their first visitors, and she continued to advise the judge on the case. “Harriett kept telling us that she could see a light in the children’s eyes that was not there before,” said Leesa. Before long, Angel asked Harriett if she could tell the judge that he and his sister wanted to stay with the Worleys. Angel and Kendall were permanently adopted as a part of the Worley family on June 18, 2014.
Stories like the Worley’s illustrate the difference a CASA Volunteer can make. Having a volunteer advocate ensures that children in the court system are getting their voices heard and that decisions about their futures will be not be made lacking any crucial information. These stories about CASA give children in need and the entire community hope.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT CASA?
If you or anyone you know is interested in considering being a CASA advocate, please contact Joyce Sanchez, Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Alycia Mueller
This story was published in the Westminster Window and The Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel on September 13th, 2018.
This story was also published in the Brighton Standard Blade on September 27th, 2018.
This Story was published in Prime Time News for Seniors in the October edition.