18-year-old Holly has been in Orange County foster care since
1998. She was removed from her home after allegations against her mother
for failure to protect, serious emotional damage, sexual abuse, and living in
unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Reunifying with her mom was ruled out many
years ago due to Mom’s drug use and reckless parenting. Holly had sporadic
monitored phone calls and visits with her mom and has come to the realization
that it will never be a healthy and nurturing relationship. Holly’s CASA,
Joann, recognized that although Holly is 18 and had agreed to stay in the
system until she finished high school, she was lacking the strong and positive
family bonds she needed to help her succeed post-emancipation. Joann
spoke to Holly to see if she had interest in a search being conducted for her
biological father, whom she had never met before. Holly agreed to CASA
Family Connections doing a search, but was a little doubtful there would be any
success. Holly knew very little about her father and was only able to
contribute his first name, Michael, and the past descriptions from her mother
of her father being a “bad” and “mean” man.
CASA Family Connections immediately got to work on searching for
Holly’s paternal family. After reviewing her file it seemed like it may
be a lost cause. Social Services had tried numerous times in the past to
get in touch with Michael. According to records, contact was made once
before and it looked as though he had no interest in establishing a
relationship with his daughter.
After finding a date-of-birth for Michael things began to
snowball and an updated address and telephone number were found within a couple
days. Upon phone contact, Michael stated he had been waiting and praying
for this moment for a very long time. He had become a Reverend and was
now married with two young children living a healthy and positive life in Iowa.
Immediately Michael was very anxious to be given the opportunity to speak
with his long lost daughter. When asked about previous efforts by Social
Services to contact him – he stated he was only told there was a possibility of
Holly returning home to her mother, a woman whom Michael had briefly dated and
who suffered from psychotic episodes that Michael could not be a part of.
Michael admitted that he had made a mistake and should have fought harder
to protect the well being of his daughter.
Holly entered the CASA office again, less than two weeks since
her initial meeting with Family Connections and exclaimed to her CASA Case
Supervisor, “Did you hear? They found my Dad!”. Holly was clearly very
nervous, but with the support of her CASA she was able to muster up the courage
to begin a new chapter in her life. That day Holly was able to speak to
her father for the first time in her life!
Holly was given the opportunity to ask her father anything she
wished – which she took full advantage of. Questions ranged from the
blunt and serious, “Why did you leave me?” “Why didn’t you ever look for me?”
to the seemingly trivial “What kind of music do you listen to?” “Do you have
any animals?”. In a beautiful moment, Holly discovered that like her, her
father likes to write songs and sing – so they sang to one another songs they
had each written lyrics to.
Family Connections was able to fly out Dad and her Step-Mom a few weeks later
and you would have never imagined that they had never been a part of one
another’s lives for Holly’s whole existence. Holly’s Father and Step-Mom enjoyed
a great weekend together where they were able to connect and learn about one
another, as well as do some fun activities like bowling, going to the beach and
the aquarium, as well as meeting some of her teacher’s at school and kids and
staff members at Holly’s group home.
wasn’t too long after the visit that Holly decided she wanted to go to Iowa
herself and see what it would possibly be like to live with her newly found
Dad. CASA Family Connections planned a trip for Holly to fly out during her
spring break in March of 2012 and spend a week there. Again, it was a beautiful
weekend, where Holly was able to meet her Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, her
two younger half-siblings, as well as numerous members of their congregation
who were extremely excited to meet her. Holly later told us that she felt very
much at home – for the first time in her life.
and her Social Worker decided a week after she had come back from the trip that
she would like to move to Iowa and live with her family once she finished high
school and emancipated. Her father, Michael, was absolutely thrilled that she
had made this decision. Holly graduated in June and again CASA Family
Connections was able to fly her father and stepmother out to be part of the
celebrations in Orange County. Best of all – Holly was able to fly home with
them, back to Iowa, two days later!
has since got a job in Iowa and enrolled to begin taking classes at a technical
school in Iowa. Holly is excited to be spending her first Thanksgiving and Christmas
with her new family and her new home!
volunteers from CASA-OC Family Connections made it possible for Holly to find
her family – through things as simple as searching on Facebook. You can make a
lasting impact in a child’s life as well and help move them closer to a
permanent family by joining the CASA program. Learn more here, or attend the next information session on May 2nd.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.