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Advocate Impact:  Melinda Roberts

One Advocate’s persistence made a huge impact for the children on her case.  Emily and Brenda were removed from their home due to drug use by their mother.  The children were initially placed with their grandparents after their removal, but were then moved to a foster home due to a sexual abuse outcry against the grandfather.  At the first court hearing after Melinda took the case, CPS recommended that the children be placed with their father, step-mom, and four half siblings.  Melinda did not support this placement because there had been a previous allegation of physical abuse against the step-mom.  She recommended that the father and step-mom engage in counseling and some services before placement was initiated.  Unfortunately, girls ended up being placed with their father immediately.

Melinda visited the girls frequently in their new home and at school and all the while maintained phone contact with them.  Melinda was alarmed when she noticed a change in the behavior of Emily and immediately contacted the caseworker and attorney for the child.  Melinda suspected abuse so she called the child abuse hotline to make a report.  Shortly after, Emily missed a day at summer school and the step-mom reported that she was sick and she would return to school the next day. Emily did not return for that entire week of school, she did not attend her therapy appointments or a medical exam, and she would not allow the CASA to visit.  Melinda was concerned and contacted the teachers. The teacher reported that the four year old half-sibling reported that Emily was not at school because the Dad had hit her and she had a bruise on her arm. Melinda followed up and insisted on a visit. However, the father said they were busy, so a visit was not possible. 

Melinda immediately advised all parties of the issues and concerns again and the caseworker eventually went out to the home and stated that the girls were fine. The caseworker concluded that the bruise was from Emily playing and that the girls are happy in this home.  Melinda still had a gut feeling that something was wrong, so she again tried to set up a visit. After several failed attempts, she was finally able to visit at the home to see for herself how the children were doing.  At that visit Emily was very soft spoken, and Melinda could tell something was wrong when Emily cried and held on to her asking her not to leave. After she left Melinda received a call from the step-mom saying that Emily was hurting herself and that the step-mom was having an anxiety attack. Police and EMS were called to the home to check on the situation.  Melinda informed all the parties of the situation and then headed to the home herself. The caseworker stated she would be there soon. When Melinda arrived at the home she was devastated. Emily had been severely abused. She sustained a facial fracture and both of her eyes were swollen shut. She also had significant abdominal tenderness and a cut on the back of her head. Melinda followed Emily to the hospital and she stayed by her bedside. Melinda was also there for Emily when she had to re-live the situation when she gave her statement to the detectives.  Melinda advocated to have Brenda moved to a new placement so that she would be safe as well.

Melinda has been the one constant person for the girls while they have been in care. She followed her gut instinct, and although Emily was hurt, Melinda was able to make sure that she is now safe and getting the care that she needs.  Today, the girls are in a foster home and Melinda is still fighting for the girls to have a safe, forever home.  Their future looks bright because they have Melinda looking out for them every step of the way.