Our Children's Stories
Sam entered foster care because he was born with drugs in his system. As a result of his drug exposure in-utero, he had numerous medical conditions, including tremors, body rigidity and he was significantly underweight.
At three weeks old, Sam was placed in Anita and Joe’s home. They nurtured Sam physically and emotionally. They attended all of his medical appointments and worked with his team of providers to ensure that they were addressing his needs at home. With the constant support and love from Anita and Joe, Sam felt safe and secure. He was thriving.
After seven months, the goal of Sam’s court case was no longer to try and reunify with his biological parents. Anita and Joe were clear that they wanted to adopt. However, a friend of Sam’s parents came forward seeking placement of Sam even though he had never met her. When the county decided to hold a meeting to discuss the possibility of moving Sam to this complete stranger, Anita and Joe called Advokids.
Advokids’ staff attorney helped Anita and Joe prepare for the meeting with the social services team. Advokids also assisted them in filing a petition in court asking the judge to grant them de facto parent status so Anita and Joe could actively participate in Sam’s court case. The judge granted the de facto request, which enabled Anita and Joe to advocate for Sam to remain in their home where he was surrounded by a loving and stable family environment. Ultimately, the county was persuaded that it was in Sam’s best interest to be adopted by Anita and Joe. Sam’s adoption was recently finalized and he is now happily settled into life with his forever family, where he continues to thrive and touch the hearts of everyone he meets!
Marisa was eight years old when she entered foster care. She had been physically abused at home and was struggling with trauma and behavioral challenges. She bounced to four different homes within the first five months. Each move made her life more unpredictable and dragged her farther behind in school.
Marisa’s fifth move was to Samantha, a local teacher and resource parent. Samantha enrolled Marisa in the school where she worked and collaborated with fellow teachers and administrators to give Marisa the resources and services she needed. Marisa was finally in a stable home and thriving when the county informed Samantha that Marisa would be moved once again. This time Marisa would move into a primarily Spanish-speaking home, even though she was bilingual.
The plan was for Marisa to be returned to her mom in the next few months so no one, including her therapist, understood why she would be moved yet again. Samantha was very concerned.
Not knowing where else to turn, Samantha called Advokids. Advokids’ staff attorney walked her through the legal process and the juvenile court forms she could file to request Marisa stay in her care until she was reunited with her mom. Advokids also helped Samantha track down Marisa’s attorney, who had no idea Marisa had been moved multiple times. Samantha was able to share essential information with Marisa’s attorney about her special needs and history. She was also able to explain why Marisa shouldn’t be moved to a sixth foster home. Marisa’s attorney immediately went to court and requested a “do not move order” to prevent the move.
Marisa stayed with Samantha for the rest of her time in foster care and focused on school and healing. Six months later Marisa was successfully reunified with her mom. Marisa and Samantha still has a close relationship with Samantha and visit each other often. Marisa and even stayed with Samantha over the summer to attend a dance camp.
Twelve month old Kaiden had lived with Gail since birth. Kaiden’s biological parents were no longer in the picture and Gail was committed to adopting Kaiden if he needed a permanent home. Kaiden’s grandparents were not being considered for placement but when grandfather passed away, a step-aunt who had no prior relationship or blood ties to Kaiden sought placement of Kaiden.
Visits with the step-aunt began suddenly. Gail was concerned about Kaiden’s stress levels participating in unsupervised visits with a stranger. She was also concerned because step-aunt was not aware of Kaiden’s medical needs or specialized therapy and knew so little about him.
Upon completing the caregiver licensing program, step-aunt petitioned the court for placement of Kaiden. The county social worker and Kaiden’s attorney gave no indication whether they supported or opposed a move of Kaiden to step-aunt, although they both affirmed that Kaiden was thriving in Gail’s care and had a strong attachment to her.
Advokids enlisted a pro bono attorney, Adam Trigg, who helped her bring evidence to the juvenile court judge about Kaiden, his needs, and his attachment to Gail. He reminded the court that Kaiden, after one year in foster care, in the only home he had ever known, was ready for permanency and the law no longer allowed relatives to be given preferential consideration for placement. The judge agreed.
“I want to thank you again for the guidance you gave me years ago to gain custody of my niece. It wasn’t until I reached out to Advokids that I was able to make any progress with getting custody… I appreciate all you guys do to help!”
Crystal called Advokids after her 1.5 year old niece Emma was removed from her parents and placed in foster care. Crystal stepped up immediately and offered Emma a home, but was not receiving the information and instructions she needed from the county to begin the placement process. Precious time was passing and placement of Emma in Crystal’s care was continually delayed. Advokids Hotline Staff helped Crystal contact Emma’s attorney and taught her how to bring her concerns and commitment to Emma to the attention of the juvenile court. Advokids’ Hotline Staff also taught Crystal how to request visits with Emma so that she could begin to build a relationship while she was working through the Resource Family Approval (RFA) placement process. After five months of ongoing support from Advokids and court intervention, Emma was placed in Crystal’s dedicated care.
Advokids continued to help Crystal advocate for Emma through ongoing court hearings over the next 18 months until Emma’s adoption was finalized. Emma is thriving in Crystal’s loving care and benefits from her close and continuing relationships with her older brothers, cousins and grandparents. Find out more about the role of relatives in a child’s dependency case.
“Thank you so very much. I have recommended Advokids to numerous foster parents and all of them have had a similar experience to us. A true hand of consistency in a totally inconsistent journey of courts, family and social worker systems.”
Forrest was three days old when he was placed in foster care with Ebony. After seven months in her care, Forrest was heading to adoption and Ebony was ready to provide a “forever home." She called the Advokids Hotline because a relative who had declined placement of Forrest early on in the case had changed her mind and came forward seeking placement. Forrest was very attached to Ebony and thriving in her care. Ebony was concerned about how traumatic a placement disruption might be for Forrest as he had no relationship with the relative.
Ebony called Advokids to learn how to bring Forrest’s best interests to the attention of his attorney, the child welfare agency and the juvenile court. Advokids’ Hotline Staff taught Ebony about the laws and the legal timelines that govern relative placements and showed her how to use court forms to share information about Forrest’s needs and vulnerabilities.
Now officially adopted, Forrest is three years old and is thriving in Ebony’s care.
Aria & Josiah
At the age of thirteen, Melody was entering the child welfare system for a second time because her mother struggled with mental illness. She was in her fourth placement when her caregiver contacted Advokids. Melody had disclosed that she had been in the child welfare system before, at age five, and had lived for one year with her out-of-state grandparents, John and Karen. She had not had any contact with them since. Melody expressed a desire to reconnect with her grandparents and live with them again.
Advokids’ Hotline staff suggested that Melody’s caregiver have John and Karen contact Advokids directly. Our Hotline staff learned that they had never been notified that Melody was in foster care in California. Our Hotline staff instructed John and Karen on the proper court forms to use to petition the juvenile court for placement. Advokids also assisted John and Karen with providing critical information to Melody’s attorney and her Court Appointed Special Advocate in order to advocate for Melody’s needs. The court ultimately granted an extended holiday visit for Melody with her grandparents. The visit was successful and Melody was placed with John and Karen permanently. Melody now enjoys a life with a large extended family of her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all around her.
Marco was eight months old when he entered the child welfare system. He was removed from his parents after several hospital stays resulting from severe head traumas. When he was placed with his caregivers, he was suffering from PTSD, night terrors, hallucinations, and general fear and anxiety. Marco was developmentally and emotionally delayed as a result of abuse and neglect. Marco lived with his caregivers, Valerie and Tom, for one year until he was reunified with his mother. Marco was removed from his mother a second time and returned to Valerie and Tom’s home. Valerie and Tom were concerned about Marco’s emotional health and his visits with his father, who had been convicted of felony child abuse. The visits were traumatic for Marco, and Valerie and Tom did not know what to do.
After attending an Advokids training for caregivers, Valerie and Tom learned that they could attend court hearings and file a Caregiver Information Form to help the judge understand all of the trauma that Marco had suffered and the indicators of stress he was exhibiting after visits. They also learned that they could reach out directly to Marco’s attorney. Advokids taught them how to be persistent advocates for Marco and to ensure his safe and secure future!
Valerie proclaims: “As the adoptive mother of this magnificent little boy who had to go through hell and back, I can say with my whole heart that Advokids actively, practically, and without exception, worked to keep our son safe and healthy– consistently over many years. When there was no hope, Advokids was there.”
Alyssa and her wife had 13-month-old Scarlett in their care since birth. During a grievance hearing at which Alyssa and her wife were not present, the court granted a non-related family member guardianship of Scarlett. Alyssa did not believe that a move to a new home would be in Scarlett’s best interest, so she called Advokids. Our staff social worker informed Alyssa of the forms she should file and recommended an attorney in their county as well. When the county filed an official removal notice, Alyssa and her wife, with the help of Advokids, were able to file an objection and have a court hearing before Scarlett was removed. The judge took all of the information into consideration and ruled that Scarlett should remain placed with Alyssa and her family.
Eventually, Alyssa was granted De Facto Parent status and Prospective Adoptive Parent status, and Scarlett was spared a precipitous placement change at a vulnerable stage of her development.
Thomas and Cassie
Tanya called Advokids, concerned about her 9-year-old grandson Thomas. Tanya was Thomas’s legal guardian, because his parents were unable to care for him. Thomas had a baby sister, Cassie, who was in foster care and Thomas visited her regularly. When Cassie was moved out of their county, all visitation was terminated and Thomas was devastated. Advokids helped Tanya file a court petition on Thomas’ behalf, asking the court to reinstate sibling visits. In his petition to the court, Thomas stated that visitation was what was best for his baby sister because, “I love her and she knows happiness when she sees me.” The trial court denied Thomas’ petition so Advokids helped file an appeal and Thomas won! The Court of Appeal decision stated that the county child welfare agency had “acted in excess of its authority” when it suspended visitation. Thomas and his baby sister are now a part of each other’s lives again.
Rebecca and John received baby Eli into their foster home when he was three months old. He was born drug and alcohol exposed and was far behind healthy infant developmental milestones. Over the next twelve months his foster parents, a team of specialized health professionals, and occupational therapists worked tirelessly to give Eli the care and support he needed to overcome his deficits and grow into a thriving healthy baby.
After thirteen consecutive months with his foster family, when it was time to move forward with the permanent plan of adoption, Eli’s social worker proposed a plan to move him to an out-of-state relative. Eli had met this relative only once, during a brief visit. Rebecca and John called Advokids to ask how they could advocate for Eli. They understood that Eli’s emotional growth and development were dependent on a stable, predictable, and nurturing caregiving relationship. They were concerned that Eli would suffer a traumatic loss if abruptly moved out of state. Advokids’ Hotline staff explained how they could bring their concerns to the juvenile court judge who ultimately should decide what plan was in Eli’s best interest. Advokids enlisted the help of Tom Paoli, an attorney on our pro bono roster, and Wendy von Wiederhold, Ph.D, a pro bono child development expert. Together with Eli’s pediatrician and caregivers, this “dream team” demonstrated to the court over the course of several months that the adversities Eli had already faced in is short life, as well as his close bond with his caregivers at the critical stage of his development at one year of age, was evidence that an unnecessary move would not be best for Eli. After 21 months, Eli is on track to be adopted and become a permanent member of Rebecca and John’s family.
Andrew came into foster care at birth and was placed in a foster-to adopt home with Alicia and her husband. Andrew was 11 months old and thriving in their care when Alicia was told that Andrew was to be moved to a distant cousin whom he had never met. When Alicia called Advokids, visits had begun with the cousin and Alicia and Andrew’s pediatrician were very concerned about Andrew and the behavioral and health stress signals that Andrew was exhibiting after visits, including asthma attacks.
Mindful of the trauma a placement disruption could cause, Advokids’ hotline staff helped Alicia petition the juvenile court and share a letter of medical concern from Andrew’s pediatrician. In his letter, the doctor described the symptoms Andrew was exhibiting and shared the research findings on the dangers of precipitously moving a 12 month old who is securely attached to his caregivers.
Advokids also reached out to our pro bono panel and enlisted an attorney to help Andrew’s foster-to- adopt parents. With the help of the pro bono attorney, Andrew’s foster-to-adopt parents fully participated in their court hearing and brought vital information to the judge about Andrew and the laws that protected his current placement. As a result, the court intervened to stop the move and ordered Andrew to remain with Alicia and her husband, caregivers who had a deep, stable bond that was deemed to be critical for Andrew’s well being. They are currently awaiting adoption finalization.
Daniel just turned 5 and has been in foster care for 19 months. He is in his third placement. Daniel was going to have to miss his school performance to attend his court hearing this week. His fost-adopt mom and dad were worried because Daniel was afraid to go to court and very sad about missing a big day at school. They called Advokids' free telephone hotline for help.
Advokids' legal telephone hotline staff explained to Daniel's 's fost-adopt parents that since he is now 5, the law requires his attorney to see him before each court hearing but he is not required to go to court. We encouraged them to email Daniel's attorney and underscore Daniel's history of trauma, his fears, and his need for stability. Daniel's attorney accommodated a meeting with Daniel in the privacy of her office, and Daniel performed in his school play with his classmates. It was a great day!
Sophia & Mason
Sophia and Mason had been seriously neglected and entered foster care at the ages of 1 and 2. They were placed temporarily in separate homes and then placed with Alexandra, and her husband, foster-to adopt parents. After three months, they were abruptly moved to an aunt’s home. Seven weeks later, that placement failed and they were returned to Alexandra’s care, where they slowly began to heal and thrive.
The children had been in Alexandra’s care for 9 months when the county child welfare agency started overnight visits with mother. The children exhibited anxiety and alarming behaviors when they would return from their visits crying, eating, and sleeping excessively. Alexandra felt that the children were suffering and no one was listening so she called Advokids. Advokids' legal staff helped Alexandra file court forms and bring her concerns to the juvenile court judge who ordered that the overnight visits continue.
Three months later, Mason and Sophia’s mother went to jail for armed robbery and the county agency started yet another search for a relative placement. Despite the fact that not one relative had shown an interest in the children throughout the entire year that Alexandra had been loving them and meeting their special needs and against the advice of the children’s therapist, Mason and Sophia started visits with an uncle.
Recognizing that the children’s need for security and stability were not being considered, Advokids secured a pro bono attorney to help Alexandra fight for them. Finally, after being in foster care for three and a half years, Mason and Sophia were adopted by Alexandra and her husband.
Marie was five weeks old when she and her older brother were removed from their mother's care and placed into Amy's home. They thrived under Amy's care for two years, then the county attempted to reunify Marie and her brother with their mother and a new baby brother. That placement failed, and the county attempted to place the three children in a new foster home. That placement failed also, and the children were moved for the fourth time to a new foster home. Meanwhile, Amy was trying to offer a forever home to Marie. It became apparent that the placement disruptions had traumatic implications for Marie. Thats when Amy called Advokids. Advokids helped Amy access the juvenile court system and submit evidence of the trauma Marie had endured in her four and a half years in foster care. With the support of Marie's new foster family, Amy was able to adopt Marie in 2015!
Jessica was abandoned at birth and entered foster care. She spent 6 and a half months in a temporary foster home before she was placed in her potentially adoptive home. When she was 14 months old, her biological father requested visits with Jessica. Her biological father was a stranger to Jessica and his sporadic visits were difficult for her, as she had already experienced significant trauma and loss. Jessica's foster-to-adopt mother called Advokids concerned about Jessica's emotional health and development. Advokids taught Jessica's foster-to-adopt mother how to obtain legal standing so she could bring Jessica's behaviors to the attention of the court and advocate for Jessica's security and stability. Jessica is now thriving and happy in her permanent home.
Annie was abandoned by her mother and entered foster care at birth. She then spent her first 4 years of life with her grandmother but was removed from grandmother’s care due to neglect. After she was returned to foster care, Annie experienced five placements in three months before she was placed in what would be her adoptive home. Haley, Annie’s new “mom,” was committed to helping Annie heal from the trauma she had suffered in her short life.
Court proceedings to secure Annie's adoptive placement were continuously delayed. Annie faced additional heartache when her new baby sister came into foster care and was placed with Annie and Haley only to be moved to the care of a relative who was elderly and infirm. Advokids referred Haley to a dedicated attorney and helped Haley fight for Annie and her baby sister. Their futures are finally secure in their forever home with Haley.
Julia & Jace
Julia and Jace came into foster care at two months old. They suffered from severe malnourishment and neglect. A stable, loving, and secure home was the "intervention" they needed to become the happy healthy children they are today. Advokids taught the twins' foster-to-adopt parents how to advocate for them and bring information to the juvenile court about their special medical needs. Like most young children who enter foster are, they were far from ordinary and deserved extraordinary care. The twins were adopted in 2014.
Justin was born in jail. Shortly after his birth, the child welfare agency placed him in the care of his grandparents. At thirteen months of age, he was returned to his mother’s care in a drug rehabilitation facility. Justin’s grandmother, Diane, had many concerns about his emotional health. She knew that he was suffering from the loss of his close relationship with his grandparents and she was also concerned that her daughter was not yet capable of caring for Justin.
Diane fought for visitation with Justin and for regular drug testing of her daughter. She felt like a lone voice advocating for Justin’s emotional health and physical safety. After six difficult months, Justin’s mom was re-arrested and Justin once again entered the dependency system. He was immediately placed back with his grandparents, but it would take years of
Diane's continued advocacy before the courts freed Justin for adoption by his grandparents.
Advokids taught Diane how to access the Juvenile Court, how to fight for the right to visit Justin in the rehab facility, and how to request “de facto” parent status in order to advocate for Justin at every step of the legal proceedings.
“I am happy to announce that with Advokids help, knowledge and legal referral, we successfully adopted our grandson. It was a 3 year legal battle. Advokids helped us with legal referrals and the lawyer we hired was awesome. Several ups and downs, but Advokids listened and helped with information regarding California laws regarding foster care and adoption rights of grandparents. I am very grateful and cannot recommend them enough. Bless their work.”
Advokids helped Shanita become a legal guardian of her siblings. Shanita and her siblings came into foster care when their mother died. They were placed with an uncle who was declared legal guardian. He failed to care for them and was abusive. Shanita vowed that when she became independent, she would free her siblings from her uncle and become their loving guardian. She was and had always been their stable, reliable caregiver.
Shanita called the Advokids’ telephone hotline seeking help, hoping to have the children removed from uncle’s home and having her declared legal guardian… no easy feat, as Shanita was only 19 years old. Advokids counseled Shanita and reached out to our colleague, Robbi Cook, who volunteered her legal services and petitioned the Juvenile court. Shanita was declared guardian and is now raising her siblings, attending UC Berkeley, and living in UC Berkeley family housing!
Shanita’s words of thanks:
"Advokids understands the importance of family and what it means to have one of your own. My siblings and I express an emotion that goes beyond the word grateful, appreciative, or thankful. It is a word that has yet been put into a language but it is shown everyday through the smiles, laughs, and silly face expressions of my siblings. Now we are assured that through our struggles we have someone to turn to. Thank you Advokids for standing in the gap so that our family would not fall through and thank you for standing a distance where we could reach you."
Advokids’ legal team helped secure a permanent home for Brianna. Brianna was born in prison and placed in a “foster to adopt home” at 3 days old. Her mother had lost 4 previous children to foster care. After living with her foster family for a continuous 12 months, the county recommended that Brianna be moved to a prison program 300 miles away where her mother would care for her in an institutional setting. Brianna’s foster parents turned to Advokids for assistance. With support from Advokids, the foster parents were able to direct the court’s attention to Brianna’s need for security and stability. One long and grueling year later, the court ordered that Brianna be adopted by her foster parents. She is loved and adored and thriving in her adoptive home.
Advokids helped Michael and his brothers find security and a permant home. Six month old Alexander and twenty month old Michael were placed in Ceci’s home by their mother who was struggling with drug addiction and also struggling to raise her two older boys. The two older boys were later removed from their mother and placed in foster care with an uncle and his eight children. Despite reports of abuse and neglect suffered by the older brothers in their uncle’s care, Michael was removed from Ceci, his stable and caring “mother” figure for over one year and placed with his older brothers in the care of his uncle.
Ceci called the Advokids’ hotline for help. Advokids counseled Ceci and taught her how to be the “voice of the children” and to petition the court on behalf of all of the boys. Advokids supported Ceci throughout the painful five month period when Michael was not in her care. She kept close contact with the brothers placed with uncle and tirelessly advocated for them. The uncle was ultimately charged with child abuse and now all four brothers are thriving in a safe and loving adoptive home with Ceci.
Advokids helped Jael's grandmother find the care and support he needed. Jael came into the foster care system at 18 months old and was placed in the care of his grandmother. Due to trauma and neglect suffered during his infancy, Jael had special developmental needs and his grandmother was determined to provide him with all the help he needed to be healthy and successful.
His grandmother reached out to Advokids for help with understanding and navigating the funding streams and the bureaucracies of the numerous county agencies responsible for providing Jael with developmental support. After nearly four years, Jael will finally be adopted by his grandmother who is now confident that he has all the support services he needs as he starts Kindergarten.
Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.
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