For children in foster care, a packed suitcase often means a new family and starting all over again, something Sam was all too familiar with and was hoping to change.
Children often learn at a young age that a packed suitcase typically means something fun. It might be going on a family vacation, a trip to visit grandma and grandpa, or as they get older, a sleepover with a best friend. Sadly, however, for abused and/or neglected children in the court system due to no fault of their own, a packed suitcase often means they are being taken away from their parents, their home and all they have ever known. Even in the very worst of situations it is still the child’s home, family and what is familiar. Imagine how frightening it is when suddenly these children find themselves living with strangers and not knowing what will happen next.
In the fall of 2016, “Sam” was removed from his biological parents. This was the second time that he and his siblings were removed from their home. As a result of issues between the children, the two younger children were placed together in one foster home and Sam was placed in a separate foster home. The biological parents eventually relinquished their rights to all three children. In 2019 the two younger siblings were adopted by their foster parents. However, Sam, who had a lot of issues, was placed in seven different foster homes by the time he was only five years of age.
To help provide a constant in this little boy’s life Sam’s case was assigned to the Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (SENCA) CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Coordinator, Debbie Green, at the request of the Juvenile Court Judge. This was done out of genuine concern for Sam as a result of multiple Case Workers and issues with the parents before they relinquished their parental rights.
Once assigned to the case, the Coordinator had monthly contact with Sam, attended team meetings, spoke with therapists and teachers and above all else, gained this little boy’s trust. The Coordinator scheduled visits with Sam which included stopping by his school to have lunch with him. Sam enjoyed these special visits and he would always ask the Coordinator to come back and see him. Eventually Sam was able to tell the Coordinator what he wanted to happen in his young life, including his hope of one day being adopted into a forever home like his two siblings had been.
Because of Sam’s issues, it had been recommended that he be placed in a foster home where he would be the only child. However, he ended up being placed in a foster home that had other children and surprisingly he was able to bond with another child approximately his own age. There were also two older siblings in the home, something that Sam had never experienced before.
Sam’s new foster family lived on a farm in a rural community. This provided him with a wonderful opportunity to spend time outside, including riding his bike up the hill to visit his foster grandparents, again something that Sam had never experienced before. As time went on Sam grew attached to his foster family and often asked if this could be his ‘forever’ home.
While there were challenges and struggles along the way, both the foster parents and Sam dug deep and were able to work through some of the issues that this young boy had been dealing with. As a result of their efforts, and of the love that grew and developed within this growing family, Sam got his wish of being adopted, thereby getting to finally unpack his suitcase and settle into his “forever’ home.
To become a CASA volunteer, or learn more about the program, please contact SENCA and speak with CASA Coordinator, Debbie Green at 402-209-0446.