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Advocate Impact - Melonie Syma

As a retired school administrator, Advocate Melonie Syma looked forward to her first CASA experience.  Last summer, she took on a case with five young boys, ages 6, 5, 4, 1, and a newborn.  The children were placed in CPS custody after the middle child was observed with unexplained injuries.  The investigation revealed that this child was being scapegoated.  Additionally, the child was diagnosed as Failure to Thrive.

All children were placed in a foster home south of San Antonio. Melonie not only made frequent trips to see the children in their placement, but she also attended the follow-up appointments at Center for Miracles for the middle child.  Melonie was able to provide information on two occasions when the caseworker failed to show up for the appointments.  This was critical information that was needed in order to medically treat the child.

As the school year started, Melonie reviewed the school records for the two school age children from the prior year.  She discovered that vision testing had been recommended for the oldest child but there had been no follow-up.  Melonie brought this to the attention of CPS.  Four of the five children were diagnosed with vision problems and prescribed glasses.

Melonie, after several visits to the children’s placement, shared concerns she had regarding the children’s well-being which centered on nutrition, supervision and the environment - with the Foster Home Case Manager and the CPS Caseworker.  Of greatest concern was that while the Failure to Thrive child initially gained some weight in his first two weeks in foster care, he had subsequently leveled off and was not gaining weight as expected.  She further advocated for any and all steps be taken to assist the parents in accelerating the reunification process to avoid the children having to move to a different foster home. 

The oldest child’s ARD testing had finally been scheduled.  If he was moved before it was completed, the process would have to start from scratch at the new school.  Melonie kept pushing hard and the testing was completed.  The children returned home around Thanksgiving.

 Melonie has continued to monitor the children and their needs since their return home.  The mother fusses at Melonie on occasion but then turns around and calls her for support and advice with the children.  As of the writing of this article, the case is still monitored.  Of greatest significance is that fact that in the first six weeks back with his mom, the Failure to Thrive child gained as much weight as he had gained in six months at the foster home.  Without Melonie’s diligent efforts, that might never have happened.