Here is a brief story, written by a current Maine CASA GAL:
This past year, I was called to represent a middle school-aged boy who was moved into foster care at the beginning of the school year. The boy provided evidence to his school guidance counselor that his father was verbally abusive—and may have at times been physically abusive. The child settled into his foster home and, over time, became fairly close with his foster parents. He learned to trust his foster mom and turned to her often to share his thoughts and concerns. In this new home, he found people who did not get angry. He found a measure of emotional stability. Both parents waived their right to a trial and agreed to participate in counseling and classes to strengthen parenting, communication, and anger management skills throughout the year.
As a GAL, I communicated regularly with the child, the caseworkers, attorneys, parents, and other members of the family. Our family team meetings (FTMs) grew from meetings for each side, keeping mom and dad separate, into one large gathering that brought all sides together. The fighting—which the child understandably despised—eventually stopped, and communication between households slowly evolved into something positive. A level of stress and dysfunction had built up to a point that had made it impossible for the family to move forward, and both parents needed help. The bitterness gradually diminished. The meetings became amicable, demonstrating improvement in both parents’ willingness and effort to build a working relationship, better communication, and consistency between the households.
As the GAL, I had the opportunity to share concerns regarding the child’s well-being and ask questions at FTMs to ensure that the child’s perspective and best interests remained at the top of everyone’s priority list. The caseworkers sought my perspective and participation at each stage. Eventually, the child attended the FTMs with everyone, and began to see for himself the progress made by his family and their interactions with one another. The child transitioned home. Overall, the transition was fairly smooth. Dad and son are still working out issues of communication, and there will be more bumps along the road. However, the stage has changed now that the parents and their families are working together and communicating more effectively. This young man will need continuing support and counseling to continue to develop good communication skills and a sense of trust; however, this process has at least got him and his family back on a path that leads in a positive direction.
Please visit the National CASA website for more success stories.