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07.01.2014

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Advocate Impact:  Laura Smothers

Laura Smothers, CASA Advocate, first met fifteen-year-old, Jay, and his thirteen-year-old sister, Sara, in January 2014. Currently placed with a relative, where their mother abandoned them at a very young age, both have spent the majority of their lives in CPS custody. Jay has a previous history of drug use and conduct disorder. He has been in and out of the juvenile justice system and has exhibited little desire to excel in school.

Three months after Laura’s first meeting with the children, Jay ran away and was detained by police. His caregiver would not allow him to return home for fear that Sara would learn his negative behaviors and follow in his footsteps. Because of Jay’s juvenile convictions and behavioral issues, he was placed at The Bridge, a shelter for teens. Laura visited Jay weekly and learned that he missed his sister very much. Laura advocated for frequent visits and phone calls between the siblings. She also helped him make a list of items that he missed from home and then ensured that they were provided to him.

Unfortunately, Jay continued to misbehave and again ran away.  Although he was gone only a few hours before returning to the shelter, Jay was sent to the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center for the offense.  He was detained and appeared in front of the judge, with a plea to be allowed to return home. Both CASA and CPS were in agreement that this was not in his best interests.  Laura made phone calls to several Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) in an attempt to find placement and was eventually successful.

Later, when Laura asked Jay why he had returned, he stated, “I knew I had done wrong, and I knew that you would come visit me.”

Jay had one request regarding his placement – to be placed near his family.  Laura was able to find an RTC an hour away from San Antonio, and Jay was to be placed days before his sixteenth birthday.  He was heartbroken.  So Laura arranged for his caregiver and sister to visit, providing transportation, bringing gifts, snacks, and a birthday cake for Jay.  He was both happy and thankful.

Laura continues to facilitate communication and provide transportation to visits. Additionally, Laura has had an impact in Jay’s academics. Not only has she been a motivating factor, but she advocated for him to receive tutoring and provided him information for PAL classes. Jay has now completed 30 hours of Life Skills training, eight hours of Making Proud Choices training, and is doing well in school.   Because of Laura’s diligent work and motivation, Jay took initiative and enrolled in a CPR/First Aid certification course, which he will complete this summer. He currently serves as a cabin leader and a mentor for other boys placed at his RTC.

At her last visit with Jay, he shared a story of how he saved a young boy from drowning.   Jay stated, “It came natural. I knew I had to jump in, because everyone else was too scared.”  Jay has vocalized how amazing his CASA Advocate is, bringing out the good in him and allowing him to see his full potential.  Jay has also expressed a desire to someday serve in the military, all because Laura has shown him he can accomplish great things. 

Advocate Impact:  Laura Smothers