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 — especially for the local children. That …
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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 — especially for the local children.
That is 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 recalled.
However, the couple quickly realized that re-building both a home and a future for displaced children was seldom easy or without curves in the road. Soon after becoming certified, the Department of Human Services (DHS) called to ask if they would 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 story of Angel and Kendall
The children were a brother and sister, Angel, just two-and-half years old, and eight-month-old Kendall.
They had been removed from their parents because Kendall had been shaken severely by her father which left her permanently disabled.
“Our world was instantly turned upside down,” according to Leesa. “Both children suffered from night terrors, fits of rage and confusion and behaviors that are too horrible to describe. However, we embraced them with love, kindness and peace.”
Over the next two years, the couple 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 mother’s treatment plan. When the mom convinced the court that she was once again able to care for her children and ensure their safety, Angel and Kendall were returned to her.
“At that point, we did not know anything about CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)”, Leesa recalls.
Life with grandfather
Five months later, they received 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 the sink with Kendall unfortunately bearing witness. He survived the trauma and the boyfriend was sent to prison.
However, once again the siblings were left questioning their futures. The court decided the mother could not be trusted to keep the children safe and they were sent to live with their grandfather. At this point, a CASA trained volunteer was finally assigned to the case and that was when the couple began to observe a change in how the case moved forward.
“We always wondered if a CASA volunteer had been involved early on, could some of the dangerous situations been avoided,” Mike said.
CASA steps in
Harriett Bauer, the CASA volunteer assigned to their case, gave them hope by being a constant factor in visiting the children at their grandfather’s home. She was invaluable in informing the court about their welfare. She became the sole impartial “voice” for the children in the court system always keeping their best interests front and center.
Almost immediately, Ms. Bauer began to see something was not right.
“The children did not seem to be thriving” according to Leesa. “They were often unresponsive and did not make eye contact with her when she spoke to them.”
When Ms. Bauer came for her usual visit, she found Kendall losing clumps of hair. She then convinced the grandfather to take the child to the doctor. She was losing hair due to extreme anxiety and stress. The doctor prescribed medication which the CASA volunteer made sure she was taking regularly.
She increased her home visits and always reported all she was finding to the judge. Within months of the children living with their grandfather, he decided that he could no longer care for them and called DHS to send them back to foster care.
Mike and Leesa knew what a hard decision this was for the grandfather, but knew it was the best decision for the two children.
When they received a call from DHS asking if they would take the two children back into their home, they responded with a resounding “YES!”
Mike expressed their emotion when he said “this was actually one of the best days of our lives!”
Safety, love, support
Mike and Leesa were able to ensure the children’s safety and gave them the love and support they needed. The CASA Advocate was one of their first visitors as she continued to advise the judge on the case.
“Ms. Bauer kept telling us that she could see a light in the children’s eyes that was not there before,” according to Leesa.
Before long, Angel asked the CASA advocate if she could tell the judge that he and his sister wanted to stay with the Worley’s.
Angel and Kendall were permanently adopted as part of the Worley family on June 18, 2014, a wonderful day for the children and their new parents.
Stories like the Worley’s illustrate the difference that a CASA advocate can make. Having a trained advocate ensures that children in the court system are “getting their voices heard” and decisions about their futures will not be made lacking any crucial information.
These stories about CASA give children in need and with the entire community much hope. We cannot express enough appreciation to all the volunteers who take the training, become officers of the court and advocate and nurture abused and neglected children.
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. Their next CASA 101 information session will be on Tuesday, September 27th at 6:00 P.M. at Zoe’s Coffee (11225 Decatur Street #200, Westminster. Their next pre-service trainings start November 3rd.
Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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