When 11-year-old Fatima's parents were unable to take care of her, she was placed in a resource home (formerly known as a foster home). At the judge's recommendation, Fatima was assigned a CASA - a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. The CASA of Lycoming County program is under the umbrella of the YWCA of Northcentral PA in Williamsport.
"CASA was created in 2003 to make sure the abuse and neglect children suffered at home did not continue as abuse and neglect at the hands of the justice system," explained Margaret L.M. Droddy, CASA of Lycoming County director. "A CASA is a trained citizen appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Jenn West is Fatima's CASA, she has worked with her and her family for about two years now."
"My role is to provide a judge with a carefully researched background and current information of the child and their family which will assist the court in making a sound decision about that child's future," West said. "The goal of the CASA volunteer is to see that every child is placed in a safe, permanent home, to allow their voice to be heard and to give them hope for a better future."
From left, Tiffany Miller, Brian Miller, Fatima and CASA volunteer Jenn West in front of the YWCA this past summer on the day Tiffany and Brian adopted her niece Fatima.
After meeting with numerous members of Fatima's biological family, her resource family, her teachers and school principal, West was able to make a well-informed recommendation to the court.
"I learned that her mother could not properly care for her nor could her father, neither had stable housing or employment. Fatima had been missing a lot of school, her grades were poor, and she wasn't receiving regular medical care like routine check-ups and vaccines," West said. "Fatima's Aunt Tiffany and her husband Brian wanted to adopt Fatima. They could provide a stable and loving home for Fatima but their home at the time was not big enough so they moved into a larger home so Fatima could have her own room."
The court terminated the parental rights of Fatima's biological parents and with West's recommendation, allowed Tiffany and Brian to adopt Fatima.
"This was a difficult case," West said. "It was not easy to sit with Fatima's mother and discuss that what was best for Fatima was to be placed elsewhere but Fatima was my priority. What is best for her was to be in a stable home with parents who love her and could care for her. Now she attends school regularly and her grades have improved. She is healthy and happy in her new home."
CASA is one of the 43 human service programs in Lycoming County funded by United Way. Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way allocated $21,000 to CASA based on community needs and program outcomes.
"The children in our program are in the court system through no fault of their own," added Droddy. "We are grateful for the caring volunteers like Jenn who take on these heart-wrenching cases and the funding we receive from United Way that allows us to help the children."
"The CASA program makes a significant difference in the lives of local children and families. In this particular case, I have had the opportunity to personally know both Brian and Tiffany and share in the confidence that has been placed in them to be positive influences in Fatima's development. This is yet another example of how the contributions received by United Way are being put to work in our community everyday to improve lives. This is now a family that can move forward together," said Scott N. Lowery, executive director for Lycoming County United Way. "We are happy to be able to provide funding to support their mission."
For more information on the CASA program or the YWCA, call 322-4637 or visit www.ywcawilliamsport.org.
For more information on Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds more than 40 human service programs such as these, visit lcuw.org or call 323-9448. Lycoming County United Way also now is on Facebook.