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Posted by CASA OC

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.

CASA 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.

It 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.

Holly 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!

Holly 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!

 

Ordinary 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.

 

Questions? Email us at orphans@saddleback.com



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