Two-year-old Sam wandered onto a busy highway, caused a car to crash into a house and escaped, remarkably, without a scratch. Mom was in a nearby store when she heard the commotion…she hadn't even realized that Sam was gone.
Sam's mom was a single mother and very low functioning. She could not keep up with her inquisitive and impulsive toddler, and was unable to distinguish between what was safe and what was dangerous for him. Earlier on the day of the accident, a police officer had already stopped Mom to advise her about safety, when they came across her walking along a busy highway with Sam.
After the accident, Sam was removed from his mother's care and placed in a foster home. While everyone's goal was to reunify Sam with his mother, it became more and more apparent that Mom simply did not have the mental capacity to look after herself or Sam. It was also apparent that Mom loved Sam very much.
When the CASA volunteer became involved in the case, Sam's father had been located and was visiting Sam. He was married and lived with his wife and her children in a nice home. He voiced an interest in having custody of Sam. The CASA volunteer visited his home and discussed childcare arrangements and visitation options between Sam and his mother. Everything was satisfactory and, gradually, Sam was moved into his father's home, while still a ward of the county.
It was the CASA volunteer who visited Sam in the father's home and at the daycare, and found he was doing well. The only two problems remaining were that Mom still wanted custody of Sam, and she was not appropriate at visits. She definitely needed help. Everyone wanted Sam to be able to visit his mother and maintain the bond with her, but she needed to improve her parenting skills and her own personal care.
The CASA volunteer set about finding help for mom. She located a program which would move mom into a group living situation and help her become independent and responsible. The change in Mom's physical appearance at the next hearing was remarkable. Gradually, as Mom made progress, the CASA volunteer worked on getting more visitation between Mom and Sam, with the ultimate goal of Sam being safe, and Mom being appropriate and responsible at visits. It was hoped that these visits would continue until Sam was grown.
The CASA volunteer and the staff at the group home went to great lengths to help Mom understand that Sam was happy in his father's home and receiving the care he needed. They helped mom understand that she was not going to lose touch with her son, but she also could not care for all of his needs. They assured her that visitation would continue and increase as she improved her parental skills. Eventually, Mom agreed to allow Sam's father to obtain legal custody of Sam, which enabled the Department of Child Services to dismiss wardship of Sam.
In this case, not only did the CASA volunteer ensure that the child was in a safe and permanent home, but she also took pains to ensure that the bond between him and his mother would be maintained without jeopardizing his health or safety.