Amarillo Area CASA Luisa Cunningham, USA, Amarillo, Texas
Let’s just start by saying there are no ‘easy’ CASA cases.
Any time children are removed from their parents due to abuse and/or neglect it is tragic. Children simply should not have to learn such harsh realities at a young age.
For one girl, that age was 9. Her father was already serving a life sentence in prison, and when authorities removed her from her mother due to abuse, her future looked pretty grim. For the next six years this kiddo existed in the foster system, moving from placement to placement, while the courts eventually terminated the rights of her biological parents. By her teenage years she had developed behavioral issues in reflection to the residential facilities she had to call home. The State of Texas was named permanent managing conservator for her, and it seemed the only thing left was to wait until she aged out of the system- a genuinely hard situation.
Luckily, a judge believed this young lady deserved better and assigned CASA to the case.
Luisa completed her new advocate training in February, 2017, and without hesitation chose to stand up for this girl. Regardless that it was her first case or that it had been in progress for 6 years, Luisa was not going to let this young lady become another statistic.
Developing a relationship was the first goal, and Luisa faced each barrier head-on. The girl was in a residential treatment facility outside Amarillo, and phone contact was difficult. There was only one common area phone, and messages were not relayed, or if contact was made, there was no privacy to speak freely. Luisa brought this concern to the judge and requested a set time be granted for weekly calls. Once Luisa was able to begin talking to the girl regularly, she invested patience and caring to overcome the natural aversion the girl had to forming bonds. In her experience, adults had entered and left her life so many times it was simply easier to stay distant. Luisa persisted and in time the girl began to open up. She shared memories of her early childhood and happy times spent with her grandmother. She expressed her wishes to be able to have that kind of loving family life again. In opening herself up and learning to trust, the girl also began to improve her behaviors and school work.
The second goal for Luisa was to locate a permanent placement. She poured over the case file to date, and then began looking for extended family members. During the case review, Luisa had read that the paternal grandmother had been removed as an option due to a failed background check. After months with no success in finding new options, Luisa went back to review the details of the case history. She independently contacted the paternal grandmother to gain insight on the background history. To her surprise, Luisa learned that the exclusion was based on a 40 year old incident that had been misdocumented in the case file. Luisa found that the woman had recently retired from a government position working with disadvantaged children, had raised 4 other grandchildren, and would love to give this girl the loving home she deserves. Luisa immediately contacted her CASA supervisor who then contacted the ad litem attorney, and the grandmother traveled to Amarillo to meet with all parties. The judge will hear a recommendation in the next few weeks for this once forgotten teen to be reunited with her grandmother.
Luisa is proof that one person CAN make a difference!
Congratulations, and thank you for changing this girl’s future!
Amarillo Area CASA
112 SW 8th Ste 101
Amarillo, TX 79101