Jake* was 4 years old, and Sam* was just 3 when they were found wandering alone down a busy street one evening in 2015. The police officer who arrived to help them learned from the two little boys that their dad was at home “passed out.” The boys told the officer their first names, but they didn’t know their last name or where they lived. This evening marked the beginning of a long journey for the two little boys.
Sam and Jake were taken to the home of a relative and it was soon apparent that both boys had lived through a painful ordeal of abuse and neglect. Although they were now in a safe home, they were far from feeling safe on the inside. The trauma they had endured soon began to ebb out into their daily lives. Everyday activities were difficult and life for the two little boys seemed like an uphill battle. But hope was on its way, in the form of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) named Carol.
Carol was assigned to the case of Sam and Jake about one month after they were found wandering that fateful day. As Carol read the reports of how the two little boys came into care and what they had endured, she knew she would have to provide a strong voice for them. Carol’s first step was to meet with the boys and let them know she would be there with them on their journey. The process was slow, and it took time for the two wounded little boys to trust Carol. In time they began to open up. Jake started to call her “Ms. Carol.”
Jake had been asked to leave three different preschools in six months because of his aggressive behaviors. He also was aggressive towards his younger brother, Sam. He wasn’t progressing in therapy because he couldn’t make it through a session. Carol knew instinctively that something was deeply wrong.
Then one day while in therapy, as Jake was coloring, he opened up to the therapist and told her of how his dad had “stomped his head” when he was little, and how he had been thrown into walls. This was new information that Jake had not shared with anyone. Finally, the pieces of the puzzle began to come together.
As the therapist began to talk to Jake’s preschool teachers and others involved with the child, they began to suspect he might have a traumatic brain injury. Told it could be a year before Jake could have a brain scan, Carol insisted that wasn’t good enough. At the same time, concerns were raised about Jake’s visits with his dad. Jake’s behaviors after the visit were very difficult, as he acted out his pain and trauma.
Carol knew she had to advocate for further testing for brain injuries and that Jake’s visits with his father, which were causing him so much pain, should stop. Without these interventions, Carol knew Jake wouldn’t be able to heal. This marked the day Carol began her journey to fight to have Jake’s voice heard.
Carol personally observed a visit between Jake and his dad and reported to the court what she saw during that visit as well Jake’s behaviors after the visit. She also reported to the court Jake’s comments about his dad stomping on his head and throwing him into walls, stressing the need for a brain scan. Within a month the visits stopped and in the following month, Jake received a brain scan. The scan showed significant brain injury as Carol had suspected. This marked the day that Jake began his journey towards proper treatment and healing.
A year later Carol is still working on the case. Sam is now a delightful 4-year old who enjoys preschool and no longer fears being around his older brother. Jake is now in kindergarten, and his teachers report he is a joy to have in class. He is progressing in therapy and learning the skills he will need to live the rest of his life with a brain injury. Although the journey for the two little boys will likely have more uphill challenges, they will have Carol behind them all the way.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.