Seven year old Leo struggles to cope.

Leo’s father died this year and Leo feels the trouble and sadness that surround his family. His mother is struggling. Leo feels alone. His mother often does not have the capacity to devote the time and attention a young boy needs. He is bullied at school and he cries a lot. He is often not clean and his classmates tease him.Despite his young age, Leo has been hospitalized for depression and mental health issues.Center for Children’s Advocacy was appointed by the court to represent Leo when DCF received a report of neglect from Leo’s school. Recently, Leo was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. He was about to be sent home without any supports in place. How would Leo’s depression progress?  Who would work with him and care for him? How would he get to school and who would look out for him when he got there? Who could help Leo’s mother understand his needs?CCA placid an emergency call to an outpatient mental health agency. We are fortunate to have relationships with agencies that provide services for very vulnerable children, and were able to secure community-based therapy and intervention for the family. We called DCF to ask their help so Leo’s mother could secure a bus pass to make it easier for him to get to school. When they turned us down, we got a court order to secure the pass.We worked with the school to have Leo tested, and represented him at a PPT to address his educational needs.Leo’s life is still hard, but he is better. We keep up with his progress and make sure his mother gets him to appointments. Leo feels a little better about school, receiving academic supports and talking with teachers and aides when he feels alone and overwhelmed.The issues Leo faces are not unique. There is a shortage of outpatient mental health clinicians and it can be difficult to get therapeutic services. CCA is working with DCF to emphasize the need for attention to issues that are critical to the well-being of Connecticut’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

Elena’s parents left one at a time.

Challenged by developmental delays, neurological problems and constant anxiety, Elena grew up in foster homes and group homes all over Connecticut. When one living situation didn’t work out, the state moved her to another. Elena never had a family  her own.When Elena turned eighteen, DCF transferred her care to Connecticut’s adult mental health system. Elena had no place to live, had not finished school, and had no practical skills that would help her find a job. She needed a support network to help her become self-sufficient.Elena is a bright young woman. She told us she has three wishes in life: to be a better person, to find out where her mother is and know she is okay, and to have a friend so she’d always have someone to talk to.We worked with Elena to get support from DCF through their young adult program. We helped create a plan that addresses Elena’s needs: continuing education, job skills training, housing, mental health services and community support. As a result of CCA intervention, Elena finished high school and has a mentor who is monitoring her progress. Living in a supervised apartment, Elena is enrolled in a culinary arts program for young adults with learning disabilities, working toward a job in the food service industry. She is determined to become an independent, self-sufficient adult.Here’s what she wrote in an email to the Center: “You gave me hope to believe I can succeed no matter how difficult things are around me. Thank you for always being in my life. Your caring makes me stronger.” – Elena

Joe struggled in school for years.

Joe’s struggles began long before his arrest for a school cafeteria fight. He is only 13, but has a long history of academic failure. In one school year, Joe had over 60 absences and 50 days of out-of-school suspension. He missed more than half the year.

Despite an early diagnosis of depressive disorder, difficulty regulating his emotions, and a long history of academic failure, Joe was never evaluated for special education. School reports continually noted severe behavior problems, and Joe’s grades reflected his struggle, with performance significantly below grade.

The school had a legal obligation to refer Joe for special education, but no evaluation was done until CCA got involved. CCA reviewed Joe’s educational records and helped his mother request evaluations.

Joe’s diagnostic evaluations determined a language-based learning disability. With CCA’s involvement, the school agreed that Joe should not be expelled. He was found eligible for special education and placed in a program with therapeutic supports and a behavioral redirection program. Joe flourished academically and behaviorally, and was not suspended once during the remainder of the school year. He continues to receive evaluations to insure progress, and the school social worker describes Joe as a role model for other students.

Baya was born in Nigeria.

She lost her mother when she was six months old and was cared for by her grandmother. When Baya was eight, her grandmother died and her father arranged to bring her to his home in the U.S.

Baya’s father and stepmother physically abused her. Following custom, the Nigerian community intervened and assumed Baya’s care. Her father ceased all support and contact.

Baya always assumed she could not get legal status in the U.S. She became an exceptional student, valedictorian of her class, and received a full scholarship to a prestigious university. Just before her 18th birthday, Baya talked to someone in her school’s international student office, who referred her to the U.S. Commission on Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). USCRI thought she might qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) status and referred Baya to the Center for Children’s Advocacy.

CCA immediately filed a neglect petition in juvenile court, and secured a hearing and SIJ status, allowing Baya to apply for lawful permanent residence. CCA also secured DCF support for Baya through college graduation. Congratulations to Baya on all her successes.

Shantel 

Shantel had little family or community support. She suffered from the debilitating effects of domestic violence. Her life was in crisis and she didn’t know how to navigate the state bureaucracy to access the services she needed to be secure and finish high school.

Shantel was moving from shelter to shelter. She needed help to appeal a denial of Supplemental Security Income, and assistance to get support from the Department of Developmental Services. CCA advocated for her right to educational stability as a homeless student under federal law. 

Through CCA’s aggressive advocacy, Shantel was able to stay at the high school she attended before she became homeless and receive transportation from the shelter to school. We filed for a hearing at the State Department of Education and secured her placement at a vocational educational program. CCA also helped reverse the improper denial of disability-based assistance from the Social Security Administration.

With CCA help, Shantel completed her vocational training and was hired by a local food service provider.

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