I know my Mom messed up, I’m not stupid. But I’m old enough to know that living at home with my Mom, even though she had her past demons, as my Grandma calls them, is still better than living with strangers. That’s what I’m going to tell the judge next week, I tell myself. I even practice it in the mirror. It’s not that I don’t like the Millers, they are very nice. But they are not Mom and besides, she told me that she is doing really well in her treatment counseling.
I’m 16, and until 6 months ago, I lived a normal life with my Mom. I went to school, Mom went to work, and at night we cooked dinner together and sometimes even watched TV. But then Mom started dating a new guy – Don. He was fine at first, nice and polite, but it didn’t take long for things to change.
It wasn’t long after I met Don, that Mom stopped going to work, and stopped caring if I went to school. No longer did we make dinner together, mostly, she was never home at dinnertime or at bedtime. I tried to stay in school and keep up a good story, but I was scared. My Mom was changing and I didn’t know who to trust. I didn’t want Grandma to worry, she was so far away, so I just held it in, until it was too late.
I heard the bang on the door. It was 3am. I knew that Mom and Don had come home, I had heard them earlier, so it wasn’t them. The banging continued, and when it went unanswered, the police came in anyway. Turned out, Don was a drug dealer and was wanted by the police, they had followed him and my Mom that night and were arresting him for distribution.
Mom got caught up in the whole mess. She was not an innocent bystander, she knew what Don was doing, she was using too and she didn’t do anything to stop him or stay away from him. She brought him into our home.
When the police saw me come from my room, they immediately took me outside and asked me if I had any family nearby. “No,” I said. So they called child welfare. That night changed my life.
I was told that I could go inside and grab a few things, my Mom was already in the cop car. It looked like she was handcuffed but they wouldn’t let me talk to her. I could hear her yelling through the door window but didn’t know what she was saying. She looked small and scared, just like I was.
I followed the police instructions and was soon introduced to Janice, the lady who was going to take me to my foster home. The next month I met Alyson, she told me that she was my CASA volunteer. I had no idea what that was, but she explained her role to me and I thought that she was nice. She came to visit me almost every week and after awhile I understood that she was trying to help me and my Mom.
The rest of these months is a blur, but I did my best to remain calm and hopeful that this would all be settled soon. CASA Alyson helped me believe that and gave me the courage to sit here today in this courtroom and tell the judge what I had been practicing in front of the mirror for that last five months.
“Yes your honor,” CASA Alyson had helped me put the right words together. “I would like to go home with my Mother. I know that she messed up, but I also know that she is better now and is ready to be my Mom again.” The judge sighed and I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing. I looked at Alyson, and she gave me an encouraging nod. I continued, “Your Honor, I know that Mom has been through a lot, and so have I, but I believe that we can make it together, I really want to go home.” Again the judge sighed, “Marissa, I know how hard your Mom has worked to get to this point and how badly you want to go home but I am worried about your safety should Mom have a setback. Can you tell me, if I agree to sending you home, is there anyone who you can call if you need help?”
I smiled, I knew the answer to this question and I hadn’t even practiced it. “Yes, your honor, my CASA Alyson,” and I pointed to Alyson sitting right behind me.
With that, the judge gave me a smile back and said, “Well, Marissa, as long as you and your Mom continue with family counseling and your CASA will agree to be there for you if you need her, you can go home today.”
I was so happy. I didn’t know what to do. I thanked the judge and gave CASA Alyson a big hug and when I got to my Mom, we both cried happy tears, because we were finally going to be a family again.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit AtlanticCapeCASA.org.