My name is Julie, and I’m a CARE House Volunteer in the Court Appointed Special Advocate [CASA] Program. CASA is for children who’ve been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect, and because of that, they are wards of the court.
Being a volunteer has given me back so much more than I have given. It’s very fulfilling to know the difference you can make in a child’s life.
I want to tell you about a young woman named Melanie. Six years ago, I was assigned the case of 3 sisters: Maureen, who was 17 at the time; Mary, who was 15; and Melanie, who was 11.
Their mother’s parental rights had been terminated due to her drug use. Their father still had parental rights, but he was in prison, and the girls were living with their paternal grandmother, who was their guardian.
Things didn’t go well with grandma – Maureen was not going to school, and Mary was being rebellious. Before long, both Maureen and Mary aged-out of the system and they went into independent living in Detroit.
Then Melanie was placed in her first foster home, in Grand Blanc. But, there were problems and, just a year later, she was in her second foster home. Melanie didn’t like it there either. I helped her get a Big Sister, who became her next foster parent, and she went to live in Commerce - another home, another town, another school.
Melanie was doing well with her Big Sister, until her dad got out of prison, and she wanted to go home and live with him. She had great expectations, but she was soon disappointed. It didn’t take long before dad was into drugs again, and on his way back to prison.
Then, Melanie went to live at Judson Center, where she still lives. She’s now 17, and she’s in 11th grade. I see her at Judson 2 or 3 times a week, and we talk on the phone every other day. She asked if she could call me “Mom”.
Melanie thinks about her future, about what she wants to become. She has incredible resilience, which she’ll need. Melanie has experienced so many things in her young life – it’s made her mature beyond her years. Yet, despite it all, she’s such a great kid!
I go to court every 3 months for a review of her case. Last March, there was a trial to again terminate her dad’s parental rights.
I try to bring the 3 sisters together for birthdays and holidays – to keep their family bond intact.
Recently, I asked Melanie to write something I could share with others. These are her words:
Dear CARE House,
You guys help so many children and familys [sic]. The care and support you provide helps kids grow strong and believe in hope and a better path for life. So many kids have a better outlook and hope in life because you show that you really do care for us. You show us that love, care, happyness [sic] and a better path for life is possible. Everyone that I have met at Care House is sweet and caring. Please don’t stop what you guys are doing! It’s so wonderful and we will take what we learned from CARE House and teach our own kids.
Care House makes the world for kids and familys [sic] a better place.
That’s what CARE House means to Melanie and why I’m so glad to be a part of her life.
Thank you for hearing her voice.