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SARA’S STORY, AS DESCRIBED BY HER VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY

My client was a 17-year-old girl (I’ll call her Sara) who had been in foster care for the majority of her life. Life had dealt her a rough hand. Mom was homeless and struggling with a cocaine addiction. Dad was taking care of Sara’s younger sister with a good deal of success. But combining Dad and Sara was like oil and water, which made reunification a difficult task.

I first met Sara when she was sent to a 30-day evaluation center. Our first meeting surprised me. She was smart, well-spoken, and had a big goal: to become a dentist. She didn’t know what having a lawyer meant, but that she was happy to have someone to talk to. From that point on, over a period of many months, Sara and I slowly built a trusting relationship. Whenever we were in court, it didn’t matter if I agreed with what she wanted, Sara knew that I would relate those desires to the judge.

A turning point in the case was when the County proposed that Sara be sent to a residential treatment facility six hours away from home. This would have taken her away from one of the only motivations she had (her little sister) and the few good friends she had at school. This was another example of everyone else in her life telling her how she should live. Nobody, she felt, was listening to what she wanted for herself.

I was able to successfully argue to the judge that sending her away to this facility would be counterproductive. Later, it was decided that the child protection case involving Sara should be dismissed. At last report, she is successfully living at home with her father and finishing high school.