A destructive confrontation, in which her mother brandished a knife, landed Brianna*, 13, in foster care. Brianna suffered knife cuts on her hands as a consequence of the altercation with her mother. Investigators saw these cuts during a visit to the home, resulting in Brianna’s removal in Sept. 2009.
Brianna was placed in an emergency shelter in a neighboring county about 70 miles from her mother’s home. Not quite a month later, she was moved to a residential foster care group home for teenage girls in Orlando. Upon entry to the group home, Brianna faced many hardships as the youngest and was picked on by the older girls.
Family Case Manager Jacinta Robinson became an instant advocate for Brianna and began to search for appropriate options for the young girl outside of licensed foster care.
While mining the case file, Jacinta located contact information for Brianna’s birth father. The One Hope United case manager took things a step further and made contact with the father, who was living in New Jersey. The father assured Jacinta that he wanted his daughter home with him, and he was able to provide a copy of the court order showing that he had joint custodial guardianship of Brianna, as a result of a previous divorce.
Jacinta continued to advocate for Brianna by communicating with Supervisor Laurie Stern and other One Hope United leadership with a hope that potential barriers could be removed on the behalf of the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, some of the barriers included a criminal case in addition to a dependency case against the mother, where Brianna would be a witness required to testify. In addition, Interstate Compact was also a potential barrier given her recent shelter.
Despite the barriers and challenges, Jacinta continued to work with OHU leadership who worked with the Department of Family Services staff and Children’s Legal Services staff to think out of the box to ensure that Brianna would not spend Thanksgiving in foster care. Jacinta strongly felt that Brianna should be placed with her birth father, who eagerly wanted her home.
With the collaboration of many, and the advocacy by Jacinta and Laurie, Brianna was able to visit her father in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. While she was there, OHU continued to advocate for Brianna’s well-being and worked with Children’s Legal Services to dismiss the dependency case and place the child with the father, who also worked with an attorney in New Jersey to get full custody of Brianna.
Eventually, the teamwork lead by Jacinta made it possible for this child to be placed with her birth father permanently. Brianna was able to happily spend the holiday season with family and loved ones, where Jacinta reports she is now flourishing.
*Name was changed to protect confidentiality.