“Mommy, Mommy,” she shouted, running down the hall towards us. Her copper colored skin glowed in the soft light. Her eyes were black ovals with long curling lashes -- eyes that never met mine, or anyone’s. Twelve years old, she stood 5 foot 6. Curvaceous, she might be 18 if it wasn’t for the thumb dangling from her mouth, the baby talk, the teddy bear tucked under her arm.
Mommy was the social worker standing beside me who had been assigned to Tanya’s case six weeks earlier. Her therapist was also Mommy. I was a new CASA fresh out of training, meeting Tanya for the first time in the residential care facility where she was being evaluated -- her fifth “home” in 3 years. I would soon become Mommy too.
Tanya and her twin sister Mandy (another story), came to the attention of social services when their adoptive mother’s new husband locked them in the trunk of a car. Their adoptive mother didn’t want them anymore. Their real mother was 13 when they were born and had given them up in what she thought was an open adoption.
A few days after my visit with Tanya, I was reading through records of the twins’ three-year history in care and came across a letter from a Ms. Heart, their biological mother, asking to visit them. I asked the social worker about the request and contacted the girls’ attorney. Then came the phone calls, meetings, visits, and finally arbitration. Several months later the girls visited their biological mother, their father too, for the first time in five years.
The parents never regained legal status – too many twists for this tale – but there were frequent visits, the discovery of younger siblings and extended family. After 6 years of moving from one place to another (20 in all), Tanya moved in with her family. She was there for two years, the most important years of her life. Her mom and dad loved her enough to take charge -- the way parents do – to ensure she not only graduated from, but learned something in high school. And it wasn’t just about school either, there was the usual parental advice (nagging) about boys, taking on responsibilities and so forth. Tanya, like most teens, didn’t want to hear any of it. But when she left this home, she was a confident young woman. And, she knew she had only one Mommy now.
Tanya turned 21 this month. She graduated from Jobs Corps the week before her birthday -- in record time -- as a certified nursing assistant. She has a job and will pay rent to her parents. She is enrolled in a local community college and plans to earn a degree in nursing.
Happy Birthday, Tanya. You are loved.
Submitted by Kathy, CASA volunteer for since 2004