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Step up for the children

We need more CASA volunteers

September 23, 2015
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

The cover story this week is about CASA in Emmet County and how at this point we have only one CASA, meaning only one family of children has someone whose only job is to go to bat for them in the foster care or child protective system.

I know a little bit about this, because I was adopted and have always been passionate about all things adoption. Both my parents were school guidance counselors. I was aware that in their jobs, sometimes they had to make the tough decision to file a CINA (child in need of assistance) petition on behalf of students in their schools. Of course I never knew the confidential information about these students, and only rarely did I find the outcome (usually placing the children with an aunt or grandmother while the parents went to jail and/or rehab).

Still, I wondered what it was like for them to have their lives disrupted (though possibly saved) by the intervention of state workers.

My parents also were foster parents to a succession of teenagers when I was a preschooler. I thought it was great to have big kids living with us who were fun and paid attention to me. I somewhat understood they and their parents were having troubles and our family was helping out.

Thanks to the magic of social media, I was back in touch with one of them; in the early '70s she was a 16-year-old girl who needed help and guidance. Now she's still married to the guy she was dating in high school and they're pastors, parents, grandparents. She remembers my parents fondly and refers to me in fun as "little sis."

I've been following the case of Bella Bond, the 2-year-old girl in Boston whose computer-generated likeness was in the international news as investigators tried to figure out who she was. She was found recently deceased in a plastic bag washed up on the shore of an island in Boston Harbor. Months later, a tip led police to Bella's mother, who admitted her boyfriend at the time had killed Bella and she knew and possibly assisted with the cover-up. I looked at the mother's Facebook page. I know people often hide the bad from public view and don't put it on social media, but it seemed as though when she was doing all right, Bella's mother really made the effort they cooked together, played together, Bella was clean and well fed and seemed happy and secure cuddling with her mom.

They had seen child protective worker intervention before due to concerns, however, but it seemed like the cases went away and they decided Bella was safe at home with her mother. I've seen some things in my life and I know that it can take only one slide into addiction to substances or to a bad relationship to take a family from safe and happy to a state of big trouble in a short time. It seems that's what happened to Bella's mother.

Reporting on the need for CASA volunteers here the same week Bella's identity was released made me think a CASA could have saved little Bella's life. Perhaps if a volunteer who had Bella as their only case had been there to observe, report, to talk to Bella's mother, and to recommend more help for them, Bella could be alive today.

We don't have to go all the way to Boston to see children who could use a caring adult in their lives. Right here in Emmet County, there are kids on a tough journey in foster care or back with their parents while the adults work to improve their lives. I think we should have adults on a waiting list to be assigned a case instead of children waiting for that adult who will care. Will you step up?

 
 
 

 

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