At five-and-half-months-old, Julian was hospitalized with multiple broken bones in different stages of healing. His young parents reported that they didn’t know what had happened. Julian was diagnosed with non-accidental trauma and taken into the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Julian was placed with a foster family, who were friends of the parents. DCF arranged for individual and group therapy sessions and parenting classes for the mother and father. And the judge appointed a CASA volunteer.
Holly, a retired pediatrician, understood the medical system and Julian’s diagnosis. “Non-accidental trauma” meant that someone had done something because babies can’t break their own bones. That was why Julian had been taken into foster care. That was why Holly, as a CASA volunteer, began extensively interviewing everyone in the family and learned that both parents had grown up around volatile families with poor impulse control.
Holly began visiting the baby twice a month at the foster home when the parents were also visiting. She recommended psychiatric evaluations for both parents. They were 21, and the mother hadn’t finished high school. Both came from families with histories of family violence and few role models for caring for an infant. In court, the mother looked at the ground, made little eye-contact, and didn’t speak. A friend spoke on her behalf.
Children who are reunited with their birth parents have dramatically better long-term outcomes than children raised in the foster system. Because of this, and because his parents were devoted to Julian, the CASA worked hard to ensure that Julian’s home became a safe one to which he could return.
“I was with Julian for over a year,” says Holly. “His pediatrician changed, his mother’s therapist apparently moved, and his father’s therapist changed jobs. The DCF social worker and her supervisor also changed. Julian left his foster family after almost a year, and began fulltime daycare for the first time. Amidst all of these changes, I was the one constant, able to talk about the history of the case with new professionals as they became involved. Consistency can be a big asset.”
Julian’s foster mother played the important role of caring well for Julian and giving his parents the time to master they skills they needed.
Holly was vigilant that Julian’s mother receive the care she needed in order to increase her parenting skills and confidence as a mother. She is now engaged with and plays with her son. Holly also recommended that the mother volunteer reading stories in a preschool program to be exposed to childcare best practices.
Julian’s father, too, has made excellent use of the supports and outreach offered to him. Through therapy and parenting classes, he knows how to separate from his child when he’s angry. He works full-time, but is committed to bringing Julian to daycare and picking him up every day.
The court has decided that Julian’s birth parents can now provide a safe and healthy home for their son. Julian’s case is officially closed, but DCF is still involved, and has requested that Holly continue on as his CASA.
Thank you Boston CASA volunteers for helping bring safety to children and a new start to families.