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Emma Wagner


My name is Emma Wagner. Outside of being a Court Appointed Special Advocate, I am the Public Information Officer at Louisiana Economic Development. This means that I work in the communications department, with my day to day work involving writing press releases and managing our social media accounts. I am a 2021 graduate of Louisiana State University where I majored in mass communication.

 

Children have always been a close to my heart. I started babysitting at 12-years-old and in high school I worked at a daycare. During my collegiate career, I was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and that is where I first learned about CASA. As our national philanthropy, I was educated on the important impact and good work CASA does for children in the foster care system. I was lucky enough to grow up with a loving, supportive family so once I graduated, I knew I wanted to share that same kind of love and support I grew up with kids who need it the most. I signed up to become an advocate, completed training in February 2022 and started my first case a month later.

 

“Emerald” came into care a few days head of her 6th birthday due to neglect and lack of adequate supervision. She was found in alone in a motel room with drugs spread on the bed she was sleeping in. She was unable to live with her father since his live-in girlfriend could not pass a background check, and he refused to move. “Emerald” was then taken into care and placed with her maternal aunt where she lived for a year until the aunt was unable to care for her anymore. She was able to be placed with another family member, her maternal great aunt where she has lived the past year. Another CASA had been assigned the case and I took over after they were no longer able to serve. 

 

When she first came into care, “Emerald” would see her parents on supervised visits with DCFS but those became few and far between. Once I came on the case, “Emerald” had not heard from her father in over a year and mother in months. The mother stopped working her case plan and the father said since the mother isn’t making an effort, neither would he. Following those months of no communication, DCFS started the process to terminate parental rights (TPR) with a case plan of adoption. The great aunt, her current placement, is willing and wants to adopt “Emerald”. Here she is healthy, happy and cared for.

 

Six months since last hearing from her, we found out that “Emerald’s” mother was arrested and put in rehab after being found in a motel overdosed on drugs. Three months later, we learned “Emerald’s” mother has passed away. The same month of the mother’s passing, “Emerald’s” father showed up at the DCFS office following his release from prison angry that his sister was never considered as a placement for his daughter. He was given his case plan again and has not been heard from since.

 

Three months later at the court hearing, the TPR was filed with the court that morning but “Emerald’s” father, paternal aunt and other family members showed up at the hearing with a lawyer to testify on behalf of his family gaining custody, if not visitation. The hearing ended with the case plan being changed to adoption concurrent with reunification.

 

During this case, I feel that my biggest impact has been being a constant in “Emerald’s” life. When she was with her mom they lived such a transient lifestyle, moving from place to place all the time. Once she came into care she would see her parents occasionally until that stopped. Then she had to move placements and her first CASA had to leave the case. “Emerald” is a smart and big-hearted child. Every visit she talks about the next time we will see one another. I know she appreciates having someone always there to talk and just listen to her.

 

Changes during the case make it challenging because it can seem that every time we get close to permanence, something happens that extends her time in foster care. Despite the hurdles, being a CASA is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. A CASA is the one person, besides the foster parent, that sees the child on a regular basis and can accurately speak to their situation and needs in and outside of court. Seeing your child get the services they need to heal, be happy and grow is the best reward you could get.

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