Lori, Carol & The Jefferson Siblings: We Were Always On Their Side
Carol and Lori met in 2017 when they stepped into the lives of the Jefferson siblings, not knowing their co-CASA journey would span over five years. When Carol and Lori were appointed as CASAs, the five Jefferson siblings were living in a chaotic home. Their parent was not able to keep up with their care and the oldest child, Andrea, was doing most of the caretaking for her younger siblings.
Carol and Lori jumped right into advocacy with the family, knowing that the siblings needed some stability and support after experiencing so much early trauma. First, Carol focused on the two youngest siblings, Madeline and Lucas, who were quickly placed with their father. Carol helped to support the transition to their father’s home and to enroll Lucas in a special needs classroom. Madeline and Lucas were able to stabilize and remain in his care.
The three older siblings – Andrea, Kelly and Katie- were facing a number of challenges as they entered foster care. They hadn’t always been consistent with school and Kelly, who was 11 at the time, had significant developmental delays and was both non-verbal and and incontinent.
Carol took on advocacy for Kelly, who was placed in a small residential facility for children with developmental disabilities, while Lori focused her advocacy on Andrea and Katie, who were placed in a foster home. Both Lori and Carol took on education rights for the siblings, knowing that they needed to equip the girls with improved education services after years of inconsistent education.
With the stability and services to meet her needs, Kelly began to improve in the residential facility. Her incontinence resolved and she developed limited language skills. Carol visited her in the home, brought her art projects, helped facilitate sibling visits and encouraged her to participate in a dog training program. But then, COVID-19 hit. Kelly, just beginning high school, struggled with the new classroom situation and a virtual environment. The speech therapy Kelly was receiving fell behind and there was not always enough staff at the residential facility to give Kelly the one-on-one attention she needed. Carol took action, advocating for Kelly to be enrolled in a high school class that could provide enhanced services and ensuring the speech therapy hours were made up. Carol continued to advocate until Kelly was able to have a one-on-one aide to support her learning through the pandemic. Carol shared that Kelly has had tremendous growth since she’s had this support and is proud that Kelly is thriving and learning to build her independent skills.
As Carol was navigating these educational challenges, Lori was helping Andrea and Katie find a stable, loving home. The girls were placed in a series of foster homes that were chaotic and cold, mirroring the trauma they had experienced in their past. Lori saw how difficult these experiences were for the girls and knew how much they deserved a loving and supportive home. Lori spoke up about these placements, encouraging the social worker and court to find a placement that was more affirming. At the same time, Lori started to build Andrea and Katie’s education plan. Lori was their one constant through the moves – meeting with their foster parents, overseeing homework and advocating for services at their schools no matter where they lived. When Andrea and Katie ultimately moved in with foster parents John and Lisa Stone, Lori was relieved to find a home that embraced the girls with open arms, lots of love, and sustained emotional and academic support. Andrea and Katie are thriving in the Stone’s home. Katie is working on admission to a respected private high school and Andrea is looking forward to graduating high school and continuing her education at a local community college in the fall. And all four–Lisa, John, Andrea and Katie–are looking forward to an adoption day, when Andrea and Katie will officially become part of Lisa and John’s family.
Throughout this process, Carol and Lori worked closely together, strategizing and brainstorming but most importantly, collaborating to ensure that all the siblings, including Madeline and Lucas, were able to visit with each other and stay in touch. Carol and Lori knew how close the siblings are and how important it was for them to see each other. By being consistent advocates, the siblings have been able to meet for dinners, holidays, and visits, despite their different placements and needs.
Lori shared how amazing it has been to spend these years with the girls and how her CASA advocacy gradually helped to instill confidence in the girls. Lori shared that she has watched them “turn into young women with a sense of independence and a lot more confidence in their education abilities.” She added: “We were there all along to be positive, give support, and to let them know they are capable, even though their living situation was tough. We always let them know we were on their side.”