My name is Melder Burton. I am now serving on my second CASA case which involves a boy named Luke who came into foster care shortly after birth.
I currently work for one of the Bayou Health Plans identified by the Department of Health and Hospitals as the Manager of Quality Analytics and Reporting. What I enjoy about my position is the ability to enact change. I have been in roles like this for most of my career because I truly love the opportunity to make a difference. My role at CASA is not much different; I still have the ability to enact change for the furtherance of the children I serve.
Luke was born with challenges. His mother, Julia, was homeless, unemployed and had problems with substance abuse. She had three other children – her sister, Laura, adopted two of them, and the third child is with the father. Luke went to the foster home of the Jacksons who do not have biological children and want so very much to make Luke a part of their family. Although Luke has challenges, I have been granted the opportunity to watch him overcome them. The milestones he has made are breathtaking. He is such a happy and healthy child, and the love of his foster parents is evident when you walk into the home.
Julia has not been very involved. I have only seen her twice in the nine months Luke has been in foster care. She has attended two family team meetings but has not attended any
visits with her son. She will only surrender her rights if it means that Luke will be placed in Laura’s care. However, Laura has identified that she would be unable to care for Luke because of the four other children in her home –two of her own children and two of Julia’s other children. Furthermore, Laura clearly sees the bond Luke has made with the Jacksons, and she does not want to disrupt that attachment.
It has been very clear that Julia will not do what is required to regain custody of her son. In addition to missing scheduled visits, she continues to use drugs, is unemployed
and does not have stable housing. As Luke’s advocate, I recommended the goal be changed to adoption.
In my work as a CASA, I have learned that family is not just the traditional one that is identified in the dictionary. In the 21st century, family is being redefined to meet the everchanging dynamics of today’s population. As much as I love advocating for CASA children, I also find joy in seeing families come together. Watching all parties put in the work to change outcomes is fulfilling. My CASA child has the opportunity to make a family whole.
The opportunity to be a voice for those who may or may not have one is so important. Knowing that you can make a difference in the life of a child so that they may have a
brighter future is a true blessing.