Emma’s Story


Children love their parents unconditionally. Even when parents are verbally or physically abusive, their children often want to be with them. That can make custody hearings difficult, and it makes the voice of the CASA, who knows the child’s interests better than anyone else involved in the case, a critical component of decisions.
Emma had been in DHS custody when her father was released from prison. He was determined to get his life on track and make a home for his daughter. She was thrilled to be going home with her dad, new stepmother and infant brother.
Unfortunately, the father was unable to hold it together for more than a few months and returned to criminal activities, drug abuse, domestic violence and drug dealing. In addition to her own traumatic physical abuse, she also witnessed domestic violence, and her father fighting with another “bad guy” outside of their apartment over a drug deal gone wrong, threats involving guns, and police taking her father away again.
Some months later, when she was living safely and happily in a resource care home with her older half-sister, Emma’s father was released from prison and wanted to try again to care for her. A court hearing was scheduled to consider custody.

Emma’s CASA, Linda, who had built a relationship with her over time, asked her what it would be like for her to live with her dad again. The little six-year-old fell silent, her eyes got big, and then huge tears started to drop onto the picnic table, her head bowed low. “If only he wouldn’t yell all the time and if the scary people with guns wouldn’t come and if he would just be good so the police wouldn’t come to take him away.” She sobbed.

At the custody hearing, Emma’s attorney recommended that the child return to her father because that is what Emma had told him she wanted. But then Linda spoke up as Emma’s CASA, describing Emma’s experience at length, and recounting their conversation. When Linda finished speaking, Emma’s attorney stated to the judge that he wished to change his recommendation because of the CASA’s report and Emma’s statements to the CASA.

Emma continued to live in her loving resource home and was eventually adopted by that family. The adoption is an “open adoption,” which allows her father and his family to visit Emma often, as an extended family – provided they are healthy and pose no threat to her wellbeing.
“This was a very happy ending for a darling little sweetheart.  And it was a happy outcome for me too, in that I could give voice to Emma’s legitimate fears and have some influence in how things turned out.”
~ CASA Linda