Spotlighted CASA of 2020
We are so excited to honor one of our amazing CASAs, Suzanne Wright, for the amazing work she has done since July 2019 on behalf of her 14-year old CASA child. Suzanne was appointed to her youth following the child’s removal from her grandparent’s home in April 2019. When Suzanne was appointed her youth had run from her DCF placement. Even though she could not connect directly with her youth, Suzanne started to build connections with the Missing and Absent Youth worker from DCF and school personnel to get any information she could about her youth’s situation. So, when Mel showed up at school on the first day, after being missing for several weeks, the Social Worker reached out to Suzanne. Suzanne was then able to schedule times to meet Mel and start to build a relationship with her. Working with the school team and getting to know her CASA youth made it very clear that her youth needed support academically. Suzanne began advocating vigorously for support for her child, including comprehensive testing and attending multiple Special Education meetings and school discipline hearings, along with ensuring the child had much-needed glasses in order to complete the educational testing. The testing was still in progress when the schools closed due to COVID-19. Knowing that her youth would continue to struggle Suzanne worked with child’s attorney to request funding from the court for private educational testing, which she facilitated, over the summer.
In addition to the challenges at school, in the last fifteen months Suzanne’s CASA youth has been placed in multiple acute psychiatric care settings (STARR programs, two CBAT placements) and a long-term residential treatment program. Except for the CBAT programs, which are secure, this young lady has run away from every placement and has consistently sought a family environment. When Suzanne was first appointed, her CASA child was living with a friend’s family. The family could not be an approved foster home because they did not have a bed for the youth. Suzanne immediately went to work and found resources to provide a bed, even spending time with her CASA child and the family putting it together so she had her own space which allowed the family to be approved as a kinship placement.
The young lady thrived in this placement for a few months, but as sometimes happens for our kids, lingering trauma and the holidays caused her to struggle. In December she was hospitalized following a suicide attempt. Despite several meetings and discussions about what was best for the child, the foster placement disrupted after the attempt. During the several weeks her CASA child spent in a hospital placement, Suzanne visited her and checked in with the team, and participated in planning meetings. Despite voiced concerns from Suzanne and child’s attorney she was stepped down from the hospital to a community-based residential treatment program from which she was transported to her high school. The child struggled at
the program and at school and often ran away, sometimes for a day and sometimes for weeks. Suzanne continued to reach out to her youth even when she was on the run; often, the youth would respond to Suzanne to let her know she’s safe and has always reached out to Suzanne when she turns herself in. Sadly, the young lady ran away from the program she was in shortly before schools closed amid the COVID shutdown. Unfortunately, her bed could not be held for her. DCF did not have a placement for her when she returned to custody, causing the teen to return to her grandparent’s home. The child called Suzanne late on a Sunday extremely upset reporting that her grandmother had kicked her out of the house. Suzanne stayed in contact with her, and the DCF Hotline, and helped her get safely to the family of a school friend for the night. The friend’s mother agreed to let the youth stay and agreed to help connect her with services. Thankfully, this youth has been with the same family since April. The foster mother and Suzanne have worked to get DCF to approve the placement and access services to support the success of the placement. Suzanne is resuming her advocacy for educational testing and an IEP for her CASA child. There is still work to be done, but Suzanne’s stability and consistent presence in her CASA child’s life was sweetly illustrated by the youth telling Suzanne that one of the first things she did in her new placement was to put a picture of herself with Suzanne that they had taken on a recent visit next to her bed. There isn’t a finer tribute in the world to Suzanne’s dedication to this youth. Thank you, Suzanne!
Presented this 22nd day of October 2020 by entire staff of Boston CASA.
Terry M. Craven
Hon. Terry M. Craven