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12.30.2016

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Air Force Retiree, Nicholas Stevens, Gives Voice to a Young Boy in Foster Care

In January 2013, I was medically retired from the Air Force following a deployment overseas. After spending a few years moving from place to place, I decided to buy a home and move to San Antonio in March 2016. What attracted me here was the huge veteran population in the area and the great weather, but I honestly had no idea what (if anything), would keep me here for the long term. 

I never heard of CASA before, but I remember the moment when all of that changed. Being a San Antonio transplant, I immediately embraced and cheered for the Spurs. The Spurs were playing the Golden State Warriors and there was a commercial featuring different people from the city who were all talking about CASA and becoming an Advocate. When halftime rolled around, I decided to check it out online. It caught my attention immediately when I began reading some of the Advocate stories on the website. I saved the link and went on. A few weeks later, the same commercial was on during a Spurs game and I decided to sign up for an information session. During the session, we were told about the requirements to becoming an advocate and what was expected in terms of hours spent on a case, mandatory training, continuing training and a few more items. None of it sounded like it would be too much to handle and I decided to go for it. I completed the training and, in August of 2016, picked my first case.

My case has one child who is 13 and lives in a foster home in the Houston area. He has been in the foster care system since 2011, but his case has been at a relative standstill for the past couple years. He struggles heavily in school, but the school did little to help him. He has an aunt who lives about 50 minutes away, but who he hasn’t seen in over 2 years. He has a sister in the San Antonio area who he had also not seen in over a year. He also has great difficulty with his anger, but no one seemed to want to put in the time to figure out where it stemmed from.

When I was appointed to the case, he was already receiving therapy. However, there were no consequences for his actions. He would be violent in school, but would go home and play video games and act as though nothing happened. I was able to sit down with the foster parents and make concrete consequences for his behavior. His behavior has improved immensely and even when he does slip up and act out, he knows what the punishment will be and he accepts it. 

His case is from Bexar County, but living in Travis County, he had largely fallen through the cracks. It was not hard to find areas that needed attention. Between myself and my supervisor, Samantha, we collaborated and came up with a plan on how to best help him for the long run. Due to my schedule, I am fortunate enough to be able to see him on a monthly basis and talk to him weekly. 

Getting my CASA kid to see his aunt was as simple as providing transportation. For months, the caseworker was unable to go to Houston and be present for the first visit between them. I suggested that I could facilitate the first meeting. I also advocated for visits to begin with his sister, but the caseworker was adamant that the two were unable to handle visits right now, due to their severe behavioral issues. We went to court and I advocated for monthly visits and Judge Garcia ended up ordering two visits per month, which was even more than I asked for. 

Probably the most exciting change is that a child who has spent the last 4 plus years in foster care, with no end in sight, has a real chance of being adopted by his aunt who lives less than an hour away. Although I wish this would have happened regardless of a CASA being appointed, that’s mostly likely not the case. The biggest role I have played in regards to him being adopted, is to ensure he is having monthly visits with his aunt. In addition to that, the caseworker recently informed me that overnight visits will start later this month with his aunt. This is something I have been asking for and thought that I would have to wait for Judge Garcia to order it, but she has agreed they are both ready. I keep an open line of communication with his aunt and talk to her a few times a month, to see how the paperwork is going and to see what help I can be in this process. 

For the first time since being in the military, I have that feeling again of having a positive impact in the life of someone else and also being able to have the pride at the end of the day knowing I am making a difference. Already huge changes have happened in this case and it has not even been six months yet.

Thanks to the training given by CASA, the assistance of my supervisor and just a member of the community who had some extra time to give to a child in need, things are looking up for this young boy. I look forward to continue helping this boy to be placed in a permanent home and to help other kids in similar situations in the community as well. 

Our volunteers, like Nicholas, provide a voice for the abused and neglected children in San Antonio. If you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, and are interested in becoming a CASA, you can find out more information on our website, linked here.

Air Force Retiree, Nicholas Stevens, Gives Voice to a Young Boy in Foster Care