The Power of an Advocate

With little structure in his life, Ziquan was 9-years-old struggling with school and getting into fights daily defending himself from bullies when he entered the Santa Clara County Dependency system. Raised in a household where he witnessed his mother be abused by another man, Ziquan was in desperate need of a positive male influence, someone to learn from, someone to be there for him and speak up for him when he needed it most. Fortunately for Ziquan, Steven – his Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer – became that someone.

From the beginning, Steven realized the role he had to play for Ziquan. “Ziquan deals with trauma with a smile. He just absorbs it. [But] I know as an older person what trauma does and the script that it writes in your head. I am trying to offset that trauma he’s not aware of.” To offset that trauma, Steven knew he would have to be a consistent presence in Ziquan’s life.

For two years Steven provided continuous support to Ziquan. He attended every court hearing to share his thoughts and views with the judge, he attended school meetings, and as the educational decision maker for Ziquan, he also assisted him with his homework.

Over the course of his role as Ziquan’s CASA, there were lots of firsts. Steven took Ziquan to see the ocean for the very first time – now one of Ziquan’s favorite places. Ziquan’s first fishing trip, first train ride, first library visit and first Sharks game have all been with Steven. They spent just about every Saturday together seeking out new adventures.

The Court recently closed 11-years-old, Ziquan’s case and he now lives with his mother. Naturally, Steven plans to stick around. “Even though they stopped the services I am still committed,” said Steven. “There’s a lot of love in the family… [but] I have a personal commitment to him.” Ziquan recognizes that commitment and appreciates it. “Steven’s a great man, to be honest, he kind of acts like my grandpa because my grandpa died and I never got to meet him.”

This story reflects a recently closed Dependency Court case and the photos & stories are shared with the permission of Steven, Ziquan, and his mother.