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Advocate Impact - Betty Fuentes

Betty Fuentes graduated from the October 2016 class and immediately selected a case concerning the neglect and physical abuse of two teenage girls, Autumn, 14, and Heaven, 13, believed to be autistic. Like many new volunteers, she was worried she might not be a great advocate, but she couldn’t be more wrong.  

Just days after picking up the case, Betty met the girls for the first time. Knowing these girls had been put through so much, Betty focused on building rapport and giving the girls an atmosphere free from the reminders of their CPS case. She spent time just talking to the girls and getting to know each of them. She also spent time with the grandparents, discussing her role and letting them ask questions. Throughout the next couple of months, Betty went back to see the girls to continue building her relationship with them. She took the girls out for lunch, shopping, and activities, all while remaining the goofy, approachable CASA advocate, so that the girls would know they could trust her. 

Within a couple months, in her position as a trusted advocate, Autumn confided in Betty that she was gay and that she was having difficulties with her grandmother accepting her sexuality, thus she no longer wanted to stay with grandparents. Betty immediately called her supervisor and asked for advice. Betty discussed the situation with her supervisor and the two came up with some simple solutions: family therapy and LGBT peer groups in an effort to encourage better communication and understanding. At Betty’s next interaction with the grandmother and Autumn, Betty realized the situation was not simply an issue of sexuality, but a simple disagreement between a firm grandmother and a questioning teenage girl. Betty addressed the disagreement suggesting compromise and discussing the issue in family therapy. Due to Betty’s involvement, she was able to set a stage for calm and simplicity, instead of upheaval and displacement. Autumn learned to work with her grandmother and understand her rules, and her grandmother learned more about Autumn’s sexuality and emotional needs.

Betty continued to see Autumn and Heaven frequently and took the girls out for activities. Where there had been a quiet and withdrawn child, Heaven began to blossom into a confident, expressive, and talented girl! After concerns that Heaven might be Autistic, it was clear she had existed so long within herself, she never felt the freedom to express herself fully. She proved herself to be an honor roll student and a talented artist, all due to the healthy environment with her grandparents.

Autumn and Heaven began to trust Betty with details of the abuse they had suffered with their parents. Betty could sense their struggle: as much as the girls loved their parents, the girls did not want to go back, in spite of the constant manipulative and emotional abuse of their parents. Betty provided a non-judgmental ear to both girls and provided guidance where she could.  Betty was consistent in keeping the caseworker in the loop, along with the girls’ therapists, so that any concerns could be addressed appropriately. Due to her position as a trusted individual with the girls, Betty was invited by the therapist to sit in on parts of therapy sessions, which ended up assisting tremendously on helping Autumn work through her anxiety, fear, and struggle concerning her loyalty and fear of her father. It was Betty’s commitment to these girls that gave them the courage to speak their truth.

Advocate Impact - Betty Fuentes