The Spark of Survival
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“Julia” thought that she had found her forever family. She had entered the foster care system at age 4. Her biological mother lost custody because of alcohol abuse and homelessness. At age 5 she was adopted.

At the age of 11 her adoptive father began to sexually abuse her. Her adoptive mother refused to believe Julia, and subjected her to additional mental and physical abuse. On top of everything else, Julia’s mother decided that she no longer wanted her.

Julia was removed from her home and placed in foster care, again.

That’s where “Danyka” came in. Danyka is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a CASA. Julia was on four different medications when Danyka first met her. As a side effect of the medication Julia twitched severely and was unable to speak in full sentences. She would often get frustrated and need to write words down.

Danyka remembers that first meeting vividly. Among all of the negatives she saw what stood out was Julia’s resilience. Danyka says, “I saw a spark in her, a survival.”

Danyka herself grew up in the foster care system in Lancaster County. Danyka used her experiences in foster care to forge a deep connection with Julia. Danyka shows Julia that she can be strong, that she can overcome the situations that life has thrown her way.

As of now, Julia is at a residential treatment facility. She has been eased off many of her medications, and can comfortably hold a conversation. Julia is beginning to think about and focus on her education, her future. But she still has a long way to go. Danyka says, “Julia has behavior issues that will have to be worked through before she’s able to be placed with a family. She wants to go into foster care and test the family first. She doesn’t want to be adopted right away. She has fears about being abused again.”

Julia has had a hard life, harder than many of us can imagine. Danyka shows Julia that she can have a future. It is not always easy, but Danyka says that it’s worth the effort. She says, “I am thankful that there is a program called CASA and I am thankful to be a CASA and be involved with Julia. It’s very rewarding watching her grow and come to understand that her future does not have to be a continuation of her past. It can be different.”

NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, stories used in the newsletter are based on the experiences of Lancaster County CASAs and the youth appointed to them.

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