Eight short years ago, a little red haired girl named Jamie was born to a young Virginia couple. This young couple was deeply entrenched in a life of substance abuse. At the tender age of 4 years, Jamie’s mother walked out of her life, leaving her with her father, disrupting home # 1. But Jamie was not to have a happy father-daughter relationship. She lived in her second home, a motel room with her father, until his arrest for manufacturing and distributing drugs, Jamie’s world was once again turned upside down.
Jamie was packed up and moved to live with a family member, who already had custody of an older sibling. It was soon discovered that the relative, believed to be a trusted caregiver, had a substance abuse issue of her own. Little Jamie was off again, placed this time with another aunt.
This little red haired girl is now in her 4th home and counting. Things are not great in Jamie’s world. Auntie believed she would be with her for a few short months. But Jamie’s dad was now in prison for 4 years and mom was also incarcerated on drug related charges. Her world was lonely and isolated, with no other children to play with, no outside activities, no “kid stuff”. Day after day she is told by her aunt that she is not wanted and should be in foster care. Day after day she is told her bags will be packed and she will be dropped off at social services. Fast forward almost 3 years and Auntie makes good on her threats to Jamie. She is relieved of custody and Jamie is placed in foster care. Home number 5….
Although Jamie was living many miles away with her aunt, the Volunteer drove miles and hours to spend time with her. It was love at first sight! She was with her every step of the way as she entered into the foster care system and bade goodbye to her home with her aunt. Sadly, soon after settling in with her new “family”, personal matters arose which made it necessary for a new placement. Jamie is now in her 6th home and her CASA is by her side.
While young Jamie has been bouncing from home to home, her mother has been working on herself and her life. Released from prison and living in a “sober house,” she has begun contact with her daughter. She is holding down a full time job and working every day on maintaining her sobriety. Jamie’s CASA has frequent visits with mom, monitoring her progress and advocating for the reunification of mother and child, once mom’s life is stable. Although mom would love to have Jamie with her and Jamie wants to go, the CASA is keeping a close eye on things saying, “Let’s not rush this” –“Let’s make it right for Jamie.”
Jamie’s placement is a happy one. She has foster siblings and a “best friend”, her CASA. They visit often, talking, laughing and playing. She attended camp this summer, in large part due to the efforts and assistance of her advocate. Her CASA continues to advocate for reunification, contacting the foundation that provides mom with life skills support, visiting mom, sharing with Jamie’s case worker, making sure the time is right.
This child’s journey in her 8 short years has taken her through separation, rejection, isolation and move after move. Despite it all, in the words of her CASA, “she is smart, funny intelligent and empathetic.” We are here for you Jamie and looking forward to home #7- with Mom!
This is a story of love and loss, addiction and pain, determination and perseverance.
It is the story of Joy.
It all began when the police were called to a residence responding to call of domestic violence. Inside that home were a mother, a father and a 5 year old little girl. Her name was Joy. This sweet little girl had witnessed her father physically abusing her mother-and not for the first time. Young Joy watched her father arrested and taken off to jail, while she remained at home with her mother battered and bruised.
Joy soon found herself enmeshed in the court system as it was subsequently learned that the violence had been going on for quite a while along with substance use by both parents. Now living with family members, this young child entered into a world of attorneys, judges, caseworkers, therapists and her CASA. She would not have any contact again with her mother for two years, a lifetime for a 5 year old.
Joy spent the next two years growing and thriving in the custody of her relatives, but often asking when she would see her mom. While her dad remained in jail, her mother was working diligently to turn her life around and be reunited with her daughter. She had entered counseling for her domestic violence and substance use issues, had remained drug free and had obtained employment. Finally, a day comes almost two years from the beginning of Joy’s story, when she and her mother will have some time together. It is a brief, but very special visit.
The visits between mother and child became more frequent and lengthy, but time marched on. Two more years passed and mom continued to work on her betterment, never giving up on bringing her child home again. Joy appeared to be thriving in school and in her relative’s home. But things are not what they appear to be. One dark day, Joy witnesses one of her trusted caregivers, take the life of the other. Believing she will be next, she runs to a neighbor in fear for her life. After countless interviews and counseling sessions, it is learned that the same relative that took the life, was physically abusing Joy during their time together.
This child’s journey in her short 9 years has taken her through domestic violence, substance abuse, the arrest of a parent, physical abuse by a trusted caregiver and unimaginable fear witnessing the taking of a life. And yet, there is a happy ending for Joy.
Joy’s mother never gave up on herself and her child. She was sober, out of harmful relationships, holding a management position with a respected company and had purchased her own home; The house that was to be her home with Joy. Mother and child were finally, officially reunited.
And on that joyful day, Joy’s 10th birthday, the presiding judge called the young child up to the bench and led the courtroom in a resounding rendition of “Happy Birthday to You!” Joy was home…