Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CASA and the playhouse

When a child is removed from his or her parents and comes into state custody, and is placed in a foster home, there are many people who will be assigned to watch out for the child’s well being, and will make sure that the best thing happens for them, whether it is being returned to their parents or another member of their biological family, or in some cases, whether the child ends up being relinquished for adoption.
Usually, these people include a caseworker, a guardian ad litem, which is the attorney for the child, and they might receive a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) worker.
In my experience as a foster mother, a child who has a CASA worker is very blessed indeed. These workers are volunteers, and can be very dedicated to watching out for the child. Some of my foster children have had wonderful CASA workers. I can hardly say enough good things about them.

Recently, I had in my care two little girls. One became my daughter by adoption, the other was returned after 20 months to her foster family. The little girl who went back home had a really good CASA worker who came out to our house often, brought her presents on holidays, and worked with her family to help her go live with a great aunt and great grandmother. She also did much to ease my very hurting heart during this time. There was also a CASA supervisor named Tonya who worked closely with us while this little girl was with our family. I really like this lady, and saw her often in court hearings and permanency meetings. We also emailed back and forth, and I enjoyed talking to her.

CASA has fundraisers during the year to raise money for the children, and one thing they do here in our county is raffle off playhouses at Christmas. These playhouses are really nice, well built houses, and are displayed in the main part of town. While I was not involved in any way with the raffle, my foster and biological children certainly benefitted from it one year!

Tonya called me and told me they had raffled off a castle playhouse. She said the lady who won it wanted to donate it back to a foster family. Since I had two foster children for this county, she thought of me, and wondered if I wanted the playhouse?
Wanted it? We were thrilled to be chosen! She thought they might want to take a picture for the newspaper, although later that didn’t work out, because the picture included the foster children, and could not be published. At the time, though, that was just part of the excitement, and sure didn’t seem to me to be any kind of price to pay for such a wonderful gift.

A date was set to deliver the playhouse. I told my eleven year old biological daughter, Mary Susannah, that I thought we should make cookies to give the workers when the playhouse was delivered, so we did. Then we waited.
In a while, Tonya called. She said they were a bit delayed, but the Sherriff’s department was already on its way. Okay, I said, and hung up. Confused, I thought “Sherriff’s department?” About that time, I looked up to see a jail truck pulling up in my driveway, and several big men in orange jumpsuits get out, along with a couple of men in uniforms – and guns!!
My sense of humor slipped into play, and I tried to imagine what my neighbors were thinking about all this!! I also tried to imagine what I would have thought seeing these men pull into my driveway, had I not had the couple of minutes notice I had had. The inmates got out of the truck and stood in my driveway, smoking, as they waited for the playhouse to arrive. Evidently, the idea was for them to set up the playhouse.

In a few minutes, another truck came down our country road, with a huge, lavender castle on back. There was much talk about the best way to maneuver this big structure into our fenced front yard, which is where the young foster children played. Thankfully, part of the fence was temporary, and the trailer containing the playhouse was driven into our backyard, and the inmates took down the temporary fence and began to unload the playhouse. The children stood, very excited on the front porch and watched. It was interesting to see them get the playhouse off the trailer and into the spot I wanted it in.

When they were close to being done, I got the cookies, and asked Mary Susannah if she would like to pass them out to the inmates. She said yes, and did this under my supervision. It was obvious they were not expecting this, and they eagerly ate the cookies. It was a fun, unusual experience for us. It’s a nice memory.
After the playhouse was settled in our front yard, my temporary fence was replaced, much straighter and nicer than it had been setting before.

Now, much to the dismay of my older boys, I have a large lavender castle in my front yard. My oldest son, Gage, says it reminds him of Bowser’s castle in the old Mario Brothers Nintendo game. He’s right, it does!! We live on a major highway, and the castle is a landmark now. “Just look for the purple castle!” I tell people who want to know which house is mine. The boys ask me often when we can get rid of it, since the children the castle was intended for prefer to play in the ditch in front of our house most of the time, now that they are older and I let them out of the front yard, but now I have a new little boy, a beautiful blond haired, brown eyed fireball, who is learning to love the playhouse. He’s only eighteen months old; he’s got some time to enjoy it. So the castle will stay as a testimony to a generous person who gave away a really nice prize.

Whoever you are, thank you!!

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