Douglas County, Kansas

Stability and Strength After Four Years with CASA

March 16, 2023

Joshua* entered the child welfare system at age 6. His biological mother, who struggled with addiction and had abused drugs during her pregnancy, neglected his basic needs and endangered his safety.

As a toddler, he was often picked up by relatives after witnessing the abuse of his mother by various men. His mother was then incarcerated, and sadly, the family members who first took him in perpetuated the abuse and neglect.

Other loving relatives cared for him briefly but, despite their best efforts, they were unable to meet his high-level needs. Ultimately, they made the very difficult decision to release him into foster care. 

Struggling with untreated, severe ADHD, Joshua could speak, but he was unable to communicate effectively. He also engaged in attention-seeking and, sometimes, violent behavior in an attempt to connect with others.

Thanks to his CASA volunteer, Paula, and his adoptive family, Joshua is now a thriving 11-year-old living in a safe, permanent, and loving home.
His parents and sister celebrate his exuberant, outgoing personality, and, as his adoptive mother Rachel puts it, “the trend is constantly upward” in Joshua’s life. 

From the time he entered protective custody in 2018 to his adoption in 2022, Paula was the one dedicated, trusted, and caring adult who remained a steady, supportive presence in Joshua’s life. She and her CASA supervisor worked tirelessly to ensure everyone connected to his case—judges, teachers, social workers, therapists—understood and addressed his needs as they sought to identify a safe and permanent home where he could thrive. 

Joshua’s mother Rachel is convinced that without Paula’s caring presence in his life, he would have been in the child welfare system much longer. Rachel added that everyone who knows him—teachers, family friends, behavioral specialists in particular— said that without the stability he found in their adoptive home and Paula’s unwavering support, his life wouldn’t have turned around in the way it did. He would have been at a far higher risk of institutionalization or involvement in the juvenile criminal justice system. 

Remembering their very first visit together, Paula recalls flying a kite at the park, visiting the Humane Society to interact with the animals, and taking a tour of the fire department, complete with the gift of a free bicycle helmet. 

“I carried that kite around in the trunk of my car from that day forward. It became a throughline for the four years we spent together.” Later, when Paula met with Joshua’s 1st grade teacher, she learned he had taken to belting out an uplifting power anthem:

“This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”
— Fight Song,
Rachel Platten

As the single, consistent adult in Joshua’s life during this tumultuous period, Paula was able to show the court the full picture of who he “was,” how he was struggling, what interventions were (or were not) working, and how he was progressing. When a social worker assigned to Joshua was slow to meet court ordered requirements for treatment of oppositional defiance disorder, Paula saw the problem and urged the judge to enforce those orders. Paula’s narrative summaries of Joshua’s situation enabled the judge to fully understand and empathize with his experience. 

Today, Joshua is making friends and busy with many activities. Rachel says that his problem behaviors have become fewer, briefer, and less frequent. While the stories of children who land in the child welfare system are often sad and upsetting, as Paula says, “this one had a happy ending.”

Because of generous supporters like you, CASA was able to train and support Paula as she stood by Joshua’s side all along the way. 

With your continued support, we can expand our reach and help more children like Joshua find hope and healing in their safe, loving, forever homes. 

*Names have been changed for privacy.

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At any given time, there are 165 children from Douglas County in the child welfare system due to abuse and neglect. Help us help those children who are still waiting for a CASA volunteer.