Now, a year and a COVID lockdown later, Maggie has decided to adopt Rachel, 13. (Their names have been changed to protect their privacy.)
“I became a foster parent because I wanted to adopt a child. But I was really apprehensive about teenagers. I trusted Dani, because of our relationship, so I trusted her thoughts on this and that we would be a good match. The only reason I considered Rachel is that I trusted Dani that she was an amazing kid. And it turns out she was right.”
“I thought it was incredible that such a role [as a CASA] existed.”
For Whitham, the outcome is ideal. Rachel’s parents had given up their parental rights. When that happens to an older foster care child, adoptions are rare.
But as a dedicated CASA volunteer, Whitham knew both parties well. Maggie had earlier expressed a desire to become an adoptive single mom. Rachel told Whitham she wanted to be adopted; she desperately needed the love and attention of a caring adult. Whitham gladly played the role of matchmaker.
Maggie’s influence on Rachel is clear. “We are both strong personalities with pretty high expectations for ourselves and others,” Maggie says. “Rachel is sassy and has a big personality like me. Other foster parents were put off by her character. But I told her, ‘Don’t ever lose that strength! Just learn how to use it better.’”
Today, Rachel flourishes in school. Two years ago, her report cards sported mostly Fs. This year, she got straight As for the first time and has continued to excel.
“I always knew I was smart,” Rachel says. “But when you share a room with five other kids, it’s hard to focus. And people just assume foster kids are unstable and super mean and disruptive, and won’t do well in school.”
Whitham became a CASA volunteer after learning about the official role an adult can assume to represent a foster child’s best interests before the court.
“I checked into it and found out how powerful that role can be. I thought it was incredible that such a role existed. I contacted Clark County CASA almost four years ago. Rachel was my first kiddo. She was devastated when her mother gave up her parental rights. That’s what makes this adoption so special for me,” Whitham says.
She admits that her CASA role demanded much of her, in terms of time, emotion, and perseverance. (Today Whitham is a CASA staff member.) But the rewards of reunifying a child with birth parents, or facilitating an adoption, far outweigh those demands.