Eighteen months after the 12-year-old girl had been released from foster care and reunited with her mother, the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services concluded it was time to close the case and end the youngster’s protective supervision.
In court, attorneys for the girl and her mom agreed. But our CASA volunteer, Kristin Collins, objected. She said at least a few more months were needed to determine the effectiveness of new family therapy and other court-ordered services.
“Let’s see what happens before a decision is made,” Kristin said, noting that the child had been in foster care for about a year after multiple allegations of physical abuse. “Let’s give it some more time.”
The judge agreed with Kristin, saying there were “many loose ends to wrap up.” In doing so, the judge made it clear that Kristin, in “speaking for the child,” was being heard as a valued member of her legal team.
“I was excited, but shocked. We won,” Kristin said. “I wanted to start doing a happy dance right there in the courtroom.”
Kristin, a former journalist now working as the communications director at a local nonprofit, has been a CASA – a Court Appointed Special Advocate – for 11 years. She has had three foster youth. Kristin is a former foster child. And that helps her connect with other foster children.
“I let them know that I was where they were,” said Kristin. “I let them know that they are not alone.”
“I want them to know that even if their lives are not perfect, they can be successful through hard work and a positive attitude,” said Kristin, who was adopted as a baby into “a safe and loving home” after being born to an unwed mother.
“After much self-reflection, I realize that being a CASA is my life mission after the way I came into this world,” said Kristin, who has earned a reputation as a thorough and fact-driven child advocate who produces well-written and detailed court reports.
“Kristin is never afraid of asking the question that needs to be asked,” said Jeanmarie Graves, her CASA supervisor. “She’s amazing at putting all the information together to provide the court a full and accurate report that it can rely on.”
Kristin’s strategy is simple. With regular visits, she monitors the child’s well-being while interviewing all those involved – foster parents, biological parents, social workers, teachers and therapists. She then recommends to the court what’s best for the child.
“I’m here for them,” she said.
Kristin has proved to be a multi-faceted asset at CASA/Prince George’s County. Besides serving as a CASA, she helps in the writing of press releases and has attended events to help recruit volunteers. Recently, she lent her hand in writing a resume for a fellow CASA’s youth.
“She really created a masterpiece,” Jeanmarie said. “This youth now has an impressive and professional resume to present to potential employers.”
Kristin may help other youth write their resumes, too.
“I want to do whatever I can to help,” she said.