The following uplifting success story came to us through the Imperial County Blue Ribbon Commission and highlights its permanency goals. The local commission has now implemented family-finding and engagement techniques so other children in the child welfare system have a better chance, like Sarah and Odyssey, to find permanent families.
Sarah and Odyssey's mothers are twin sisters. Both moms have serious substance abuse problems. Until four years ago, they all lived together with the girls' grandmother, who made sure they were well cared for and loved. But then their grandmother died of breast cancer and their lives were turned upside down.
Child Protective Services got involved in the case, and in October 2007 removed the girls from their mothers. Neither girl had a father in the picture. Odyssey's had been incarcerated since she was five (she is now 13) and Sarah's committed suicide many years earlier (Sarah is now 12). Sarah and Odyssey were placed in separate foster homes even though they had been raised as siblings. Luckily, their aunt Traci had always had contact with the girls and immediately went to court to try to get them placed with her and her husband, Marc. They remained in foster care while social services completed a background check for their aunt and uncle. Both girls were then placed with Traci and Marc.
At the time they were removed from their home, Sarah and Odyssey were in the 5th and 6th grades, respectively. Sarah was performing at a 2nd grade level and Odyssey at a 3rd grade level. They missed school frequently, couldn't read or write, and always had to go to summer school. Traci enrolled the girls in private tutoring services and they quickly caught up to grade level performance. Now they are in the 7th and 8th grades-both are high performers; Odyssey, in particular, is a straight 'A' student.
Neither of the girls' mothers was successful with a reunification plan. Sarah's mother's parental rights were terminated after she failed to take any reunification steps in the first six months. Odyssey's mother got 12 months of services and then had her parental rights terminated.
But now, according to Traci, thanks to Judge Ulloa and "one amazing social worker" named Esther Martinez, both girls have been adopted by their aunt and uncle and are facing a much brighter future.
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