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Anastasia Warden

Despite the age of the child; patience, neutral observation and mindful listening must be the top priorities while doing any work with or for the child.

Two year olds have pretty basic needs and may find it difficult to communicate if these needs are not met – particularly as there will be no attachment with the resource parents. Observation of the child’s mood & behavior – principally through play? – may be the best source of information with regard to the child’s wellbeing. This child will not be looking to their CASA for explanations but the CASA can still provide a source of stability in what must be a confusing time for the toddler. In addition, unless some sort of daycare situation is set up, there will be a more limited number of adults in contact with the child and the CASA may be relied on to gather more information or make more guesses as to the child’s condition than with an older chid.

Seven year olds may have a strong attachment to their biological family (hopefully!) and may express their confusion and anger through negative behaviour. I think this age may be the most difficult. They have some understanding of why and how things are happening but cannot be given the same level of information (details, court procedures) as the 15 year old. However, because they are in school, it will be easier for the CASA to gather more data about how the child is doing. Fortunately, this child can still be distracted by play and silliness and that can help create a sense of safety for the child. I think it’s also important for the CASA to understand that with a child of this age you should be willing to discuss age-appropriate details regarding the child’s situation but for the most part the CASA would be “working behind the scenes” to clear obstacles so that the child can focus on being a child.

15 year olds, I think, will differ in their needs based on how often they have been moved around and/or removed from their home. Attachment to the biological family could be quite strong and this child might be extremely angry about removal. Or, they might have been bounced around so often that they have simply no trust in the system or any adult (teachers, resource parents) acting in any way as an “authority” over them. Depending on the child’s situation, they may have already shouldered many responsibilities usually reserved for adults and may shrug off any attempt to recapture their childhood by requests made by school and therapists. On the other hand, once a connection is made with a child of this age, they will respect any adult that speaks with them honestly and that acknowledges that they are capable adolescents who do not need (hopefully) a babysitter.