Sierra’s Story

The Experience of a CASA Child
3:00am the night she was placed
in Foster Care
Two days after being placed in Foster Care
Adoption Day!

On the evening of Thursday, July 7th 2016, my husband Mike and I had been a certified foster home for 2 weeks when we received our first call for a foster care placement. They said they had a 6mo old baby girl who they ‘might’ need a placement for. They were not able to provide me with any details but said they would call me back and let me know. We received another call about 30 minutes later saying they were covered for the night and thanked us for our willingness to take her in. I will admit that I was a little sad they didn’t need us but I was happy they were able to get it worked out. Around 9pm I was getting ready for bed and I told Mike that I just had a feeling that I needed to sleep with my phone ringer on (I normally have it on silent as I like my sleep lol). We tucked our 2 daughters (who were 2 & 3 at the time) into bed and I quickly fell asleep myself. At 2:30am I was woken up by my phone ringing with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, it was an intake worker from ODHS asking if we were available to take the little girl they had called about earlier in the evening. They needed placement right away. I said of course, got up and got dressed. I went downstairs and waited, watching out the window for them to pull up. At 3am, I saw the headlights in the driveway and raced outside to meet them. When the intake worker opened the van door and I saw little baby Sierra for the first time, she was sitting in a dirty car seat, wearing a dirty onesie and a dirty diaper. I was completely in love.

The intake worker brought her inside the house and said he was going to Walgreens to get her a bottle, some formula and diapers as we no longer had those items in our house. It was a very rough night with lots of tears. I am sure she could feel my anxiety. The next morning, I dressed this tiny baby in 2t clothes as that was the smallest size I had and took her to Walmart to buy her some new outfits. The next few weeks went by in a blur. On July 20th, Mike and I attended a shelter hearing for Sierra where we were able to gain some insight to why she was removed from her home. Sierra’s mother was not doing well and was suffering from a substance abuse disorder; in a moment of clarity, she realized that she couldn’t care for her child and did the most unselfish thing she could do (and for which I will always respect her). She took Sierra to the hospital and told them she was unable to care for her baby and she needed someone to give her a stable home. ODHS tried to work with her to keep Sierra in her care but in her heart, she knew she couldn’t.

Fast forward to December 2016, Sierra is just shy of a year old when we get a dreaded call from ODHS saying that a man has come forward claiming to be Sierra’s dad and he wants her to come live with him. We were immediately heartbroken. The following week we took Sierra in for a paternity test and in January 2017, we were notified that this man was in fact her biological father.  ODHS quickly set up visitation for him and Sierra but the visits were sporadic. By June when there was no movement in her case, I decided to reach out to CASA and inquire about getting an advocate for Sierra. When I spoke to the CASA office I was told that they had quite a long waitlist but they would send out an email to see if anyone was available to advocate for her. I received a call on June 20, 2017 that a CASA named Tammy agreed to take on Sierra’s case. We were overjoyed!

Over the next 18 months, Tammy helped us navigate through ODHS systems, often times being the only one we could reach for an update on Sierra’s case. She was a constant for us while Sierra’s case workers had changed 4 times. I felt like we were always starting over but having this support made a world of difference. I felt like we had someone who was there fighting FOR Sierra rather than over her.

Visitation with Sierra’s bio dad was still continuing and scheduled once a week, on again and off again. He attended 7 out of the scheduled 56 visits. Tammy attended a few of these visits and witnessed the interactions Sierra had with him, which were minimal. Tammy also showed up to our CRB hearings and every single one of our court hearings. She advocated for Sierra with ODHS and in court. She showed up to countless home visits, oftentimes bringing little gifts for her.

In January 2018, Sierra’s bio dad decided to relinquish his parental rights and shortly after the parental rights of her bio mother were terminated as she had not been involved with Sierra since February 2017. Although this was forward movement, we were once again at a standstill. During this time, Tammy still came to our house to visit with Sierra.  She still was the one that would provide information to us, that was so wonderful to get and we wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without her on Sierra’s side.

This has been such a long and grueling process and one that I would never want to do alone. I am a very strong advocate for CASA and all the work that each and every one of you do and  I am happy to say that with all of our efforts and the efforts of our CASA, Tammy, Sierra finally has her happy ending.  She is now a Woolstenhulme!