It was two days before his fifth birthday, in April of 2016, when little Jeremiah was found wandering the streets alone, with adult shoes on. His mother was strung out; she didn’t realize he had left the house.
When the Colorado Springs Police Department arrived, they found an unclean home plagued by substance abuse and domestic violence. The house was littered with drug paraphernalia, and mom and dad were completely lacking the skills needed to raise their son.
Jeremiah entered the child welfare system that day and spent his fifth birthday in the foster home he would live in for the next six weeks. Being removed from the only home he had ever known was scary and chaotic. Luckily, there were two very special women who were determined to see Jeremiah prosper in a safe and loving environment.
The first was a lady named Jessica. She had known Jeremiah since he was born because, as a child, her family was friends with Jeremiah’s father’s family. Jessica became a “kin-like” placement for Jeremiah. He moved from his first foster home into Jessica’s home and she provided him with safety and stability while his biological parents worked on their court-ordered treatment plans.
Then there was Kellye. Kellye had been a Court Appointed Special Advocate for two years and had completed four cases. She was assigned to Jeremiah’s case in July, just before he entered school.
Normally, starting kindergarten is an exciting time for a child. It’s a turning point. For Jeremiah, that turning point was marked by supervised visits with parents, court dates, and eventually restraining orders placed on his parents. There wasn’t a lot of time leftover for the fun things like sports or play dates.
“Jeremiah struggled with the transition from visits with his biological parents to back home with me,” Jessica recalled. “He saw each parent once a week at separate visits and after visits he would throw toys, refuse to brush his teeth, and even bang his head on walls.”
“They (his parents) just weren’t respecting what they were doing to Jeremiah and it was causing him a lot of anger issues,” Kellye said.
The boy’s anger issues didn’t mix well with the fact that before starting kindergarten, he hadn’t really been in a social environment. Jeremiah began lashing out at school, throwing chairs and anything else he could get his hands on. By first grade, he had 22 suspensions.
Meanwhile, mom and dad were given every opportunity by the judge to make positive change but they kept failing their drug tests. Dad lashed out in anger at supervised visits, and mom never sought employment. They never created a clean, safe home for Jeremiah.
Jessica and Kellye weren’t about to give up though. Jessica continued providing him with the stable home he needed, and Kellye continued her work as the CASA volunteer who provided clarification to the other professionals working the case. As a kin-like placement, Jessica wasn’t a part of court hearings, but Kellye was able to illustrate the effects that various events had on Jeremiah. She kept the timelines clear for the court. She did this for three years.
“With some of the professionals changing during the case, there were pieces of this case the judge wouldn’t have known. Things would have been forgotten or they wouldn’t have had the same impact. I was there to give a picture of what was happening to Jeremiah and what his feelings were and to make sure that was known,” Kellye said of her role.
Jessica is also quick to point out that Kellye’s support went far beyond the courtroom.
“Jeremiah loves Kellye and loved visiting with her,” she said. “She was gentle when asking the questions she needed to and he liked talking with her. It never mattered when, it felt like she was always there for us.”
Plenty of obstacles delayed the trial, but once the case finally got there, parental rights were terminated. The difference in Jeremiah was evident almost immediately.
“Since parental rights were terminated, his growth was amazing. He went through therapy and then stopped therapy to switch to martial arts,” said Kellye. “Martial arts became his therapy.”
Jessica eliminated the labels that had been placed on the boy at school by moving him to a new school for second grade and he ended the year with five academic awards.
After second grade, Jeremiah no longer had to spend his free time on court-ordered activities. He finally got to have some fun childhood experiences, including summer camp thanks to funding from CASA’s Milton Foster Children’s Fund. It was a testament to his growth when he successfully stayed at the overnight camp complete with horseback riding, hiking, swimming, and so many other experiences important to a young boy.
Although she did not anticipate a long-term placement when she first became a foster mom, Jessica wanted to adopt Jeremiah. The adoption was final September 13, 2019 and Jeremiah was able to begin his third grade year with his new last name.
Jeremiah is now an active little boy who loves sports (especially Taekwondo), excels in math and art, and has a long-term goal of being on American Ninja Warrior. Thanks to his mom, Jessica, who shows love with no limits, and to the dedication of his CASA, Kellye – Jeremiah has a bright future ahead.