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Advocate Impact: Teri Swope-Shussler’s Story

Research has found that, of all the difficulties children in foster care face, separation from siblings is the most painful. The unfortunate reality is that, due to limited availability and large sibling groups, CPS is often unable to keep families united. But that fact didn’t dissuade Teri Swope-Shussler from trying.

Andrea, Jacob, Jonathan, and Jesus came into care due to allegations of serious drug usage by their mother and uncle. When assigned to the case, Terri immediately set out to meet the children, understand their needs, and investigate their options. During her weekly visits, Teri found that Andrea and Jacob were tightly bonded with each other, and that both children were afraid of being separated from the twins, Jonathan and Jesus. Teri felt that separating the sibling group would create undue trauma for the children.

Meanwhile, CPS had located a paternal aunt, who lived five hours away, but who could only take in the twins. The aunt suggested that a close friend of hers could take in the other children, but CPS declined the idea due to the friend having no previous relationship to the children. Terri felt, however, that placement with the friend would be appropriate because it would keep the siblings in close proximity to one another.

Teri continued to maintain contact with the aunt and her friend, even after CPS has declined the placement. Terri worked with the friend and informed her and her husband what they would need to do to become licensed foster parents. Ultimately, placement for all the children was approved with the paternal aunt, with the understanding that the friends would continue taking classes to become licensed foster parents, and take the older siblings upon completion.

After the children were placed in safe and stable care, Teri continued to maintain contact with the children, often making the five hour drive to see them face-to-face. On occasion, she even drove the children’s attorney to visit the children at their new home! Because of her dedication and close relationship with the children, Teri’s opinion is highly valued by the parties to the children’s case. There is no doubt that her hard work has made a lasting difference in the lives of the children.