Ava was three and a half years old when she entered the Dependency Court System in June of 2019. Her parents were both struggling with addiction and Ava was removed and placed into a foster home because of the drug use and neglect in the home. After her initial placement, Ava moved again and was placed with her aunt, uncle and cousins. Not long after that move, a new adult entered her life, her Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Karen.
In getting to know Ava, Karen learned that she loved to visit the park and the local library. In March, when the pandemic changed the world, Karen didn’t let that stop her from seeing Ava or from building their connection. Ava’s aunt helped by setting up Zoom visits where Karen used games and other activities to keep Ava engaged. When it was safe to do so, they met in person again to have picnics and Karen planned scavenger hunts in public spaces. This past summer the two utilized Child Advocates of Silicon Valley’s new partner memberships to visit Happy Hollow Park & Zoo and the Children’s Discovery Museum multiple times. Exploring new things with each visit.
The more she got to know Ava, Karen realized she needed to learn more details of her situation to best advocate for her. She worked closely with Ava’s aunt and social worker so she would have a deeper understanding of Ava’s situation. She submitted reports to the judge and attended hours of court hearings. Karen’s connection to Ava and communication with the decision makers in her case meant that Karen was an informed and therefore effective Advocate for Ava.
As they grew closer, Ava began to share questions and statements about her living situation, wondering if she would go back to a foster home or possibly return to her mother. Being moved several times is difficult for any person, but especially for a young child. Karen was able to offer thoughtful insight to the family about the feelings Ava expressed. Karen offered suggestions and worked with Ava’s aunt and uncle to make the transition smoother for everyone. Karen made sure that Ava’s perspective was better understood by the family.
Ava is now 5 years old, happy, healthy and enrolled in kindergarten. The Court recently closed her case, appointing her aunt and uncle as formal legal guardians, Ava knows this is home for her. Karen remains connected to Ava and her family, providing continued support to Ava as well as her aunt.
This story is a recently closed Dependency Court case. The photos and story are shared with the permission of Karen and Ava’s legal guardians.