Jamie, 16, contacted the Bergen County Police Department Help Line because she was considering suicide. Alone and depressed after arriving in New York the day before, Jamie fled her hometown because she was being physically assaulted for what was deemed “homosexual behavior.” This was confirmed by her mother who said it would not be safe for Jamie to return home.
Jamie suffered from PTSD as a result of her experiences of bullying and discrimination and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. While born as male, she identified as female. Her time in foster care was challenging due to her gender dysphoria, and the significant changes she endured in her new life: moving to a new state, living in two foster homes and a group home, estrangement from family and friends, enrolling in new schools, all without the support of anyone familiar to her. Since receiving support and guidance from Bergen CASA, Jamie has focused on her studies, obtained good grades, and started to envision a future that includes a college degree.
Jamie was treated for her PTSD, but the emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues associated with her gender dysphoria were not being adequately addressed. Her CASA advocated that Jamie see a specialist for evaluation, who determined that hormone replacement therapy was medically necessary. Her CASA then presented the court with a well-researched and supported report which advocated for the treatment, where treatment could be obtained, a doctor who would oversee it, and how insurance would cover costs.
As a result of this advocacy and after meeting with the minor, the judge acknowledged the urgency and recommendations, and issued a court order allowing Jamie to choose to take the hormone therapy. Jamie said the actions of Bergen CASA changed her entire outlook on her life. After struggling for years, she is successfully enrolled in college and hopeful about her future.
John and Paul
John, 9, and Paul, 11, were living with their grandmother because their mother was a drug addict. The biological father had long since left and no one could locate him. Paul revealed to his CASA that he knew how to fill a crack pipe and how to tell if his mother had overdosed. He was angry and experienced problems at home and at school because of his aggression and inability to focus on his schoolwork.
The CASA worked very closely with everyone in the family. The Advocate had firsthand experience with drug addiction and gained the mother’s trust as she realized he understood the scope of her problems and he was not judgmental. The grandmother shared her fears that she was not strong enough to succeed as a parent.
The Advocate decided that the adoption could not be a success while Paul was acting out at home. He had also started refusing to go to school and was in danger of being held back a year due to his extensive absences. Paul’s therapist believed the youngster was addicted to video gaming and that his grandmother needed to establish boundaries at home. The CASA, therapist, and Division caseworker eventually removed the video games from the house after Paul physically threatened his grandmother and brother. Paul went through a period of tremendous anger. His team all worked together and eventually Paul agreed to attend school, to do his homework and chores in order to earn back his video game time.
The CASA and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency caseworker delayed the adoption by three months to ensure Grandma had the parenting skills to handle Paul. Adoption day was a celebration of this family’s success. The CASA, now a friend, still sees the family for birthdays and holidays and reports that they are doing very well.
Baby Lilly was removed from a young mother and placed in foster care after the hospital staff became concerned about the mother’s emotional and psychiatric health. The mother had been a CASA child herself and had recently aged out of foster care.
The CASA met the mother who told her that she did not have the resources to raise her baby. She wanted the baby to be raised by someone who would keep her in the child’s life. The mother had been in touch with family friends in Florida who wanted to adopt Lilly and she had been led to believe that they would ensure she could remain in her daughter’s life.
The Advocate reached out to the Florida friends, and over the course of several calls learned they were not keen to keep the mother in Lilly’s life because they thought it would cause confusion for the child.
In Lilly’s foster home, the CASA met the foster parents who she learned had previously raised another foster child for two-and-a-half years before she was reunified with her mother. They had taken extraordinary steps to support that mother’s connection to her child. This couple had already demonstrated an openness and willingness to embrace multiple parents in a child’s life.
The CASA asked the court to allow the foster family to supervise visits between Lilly and her mother. The court agreed and a visit was set up at the zoo. It went very well. The couple continued to meet with the mother regularly and the family soon developed a trusting relationship. Not long after the young mother surrendered her parental rights and identified the resource parents to adopt Lilly.
The adoptive parents still speak with Lilly’s biological mom regularly. They send her photos and updates, so she knows her baby girl is thriving.