ProKids is often reminded of Brandon around Thanksgiving – a holiday filled with family gatherings, grateful thoughts, and thankful meals. When harvest decorations adorn the houses in neighborhoods across the city, and porches are covered in pumpkins and cornhusks, it is hard not to think of those who don’t have a family to go home to, or to celebrate the holidays with. The kids like Brandon – who have more to worry about than how many desserts they will pile on their plates after a huge, button-popping meal, or which friends they will tag alongside at the next day’s shopping sales.
“I was locked away – hidden - back at the end of a dark, long hallway, behind a deadbolted door. My one bedroom window was decorated with 2 X 4 wooden boards, held tight to the windowsill with rusty nails. I lost track of time back there. The bucket I was given to use as my restroom often smelled for days – and I had no way of opening that window. Why would they do that to me? Why didn’t my family love me? Why were they embarrassed of me? The days came and went, every day was the same. Holidays? I never celebrated a single one. Alone best describes my life in my parents’ home. But, when I was 13, they both died, tragically, I’m told. I went to live with my older brother. Life didn’t improve – he was always high on drugs or selling them to get high again.”
Life was a constant struggle – Brandon’s lifelong trauma pushed him to the breaking point. He was removed from his brother’s home, placed in foster care, and assigned to Susan, his ProKids CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer. Susan had completed intensive training and background screening by ProKids before she was assigned to work with Brandon. As the eyes and ears of the Court making decisions about Brandon’s life, Susan ensured that his best interests were being met. She immediately immersed herself in the details of Brandon’s case, and learned all that she could about his past, his developmental disorder, and his family.
While the county’s caseworker juggled a caseload of more than twenty families, Susan could focus only on Brandon. When she uncovered a suitable relative that was willing to provide a safe environment for Brandon, he moved in with them. To finally address his developmental delays, Susan worked diligently to ensure services were in place for the family to provide the proper care and environment Brandon needed.
Susan then advocated for Brandon educationally – she saw him struggling in his studies and did not find his school to be the best fit to meet his needs. Because of his past and developmental issues, Brandon had received all F’s, yet the school promoted him anyway. Susan dug in deeper, researching and gathering all of the information she could to ultimately find a school where Brandon could receive the attention and instruction he needed to succeed. She also helped him attend a summer camp and join a horse program, as Susan discovered Brandon’s love of the outdoors. After years of staring at four walls – all day, every day – the freedom he experienced in the outdoors was indescribable.
Because of Susan’s dedication, Brandon is now thriving educationally and at home. The once expressionless and lonely boy is now clearly happy; expressing emotions confidently and finally feels a part of a family. He has also discovered great pleasure in celebrating every holiday and birthday with his family.