April 25, 2023
A Case for COBYS – Layla’s Journey
Behind each data point, unit of service, hour of therapy and class delivered, is a face and a case. Who are COBYS clients, the cases we receive? What exactly does COBYS do for them?
COBYS serves a broad segment of society, but many of COBYS clients first start services through county foster care and state adoption programs. We serve children in several counties in Pennsylvania including Lancaster, Berks and Schuylkill.
We invite you to join us on a journey through this example of 11-year-old Layla, a representational, fictitious case, to deepen your understanding of the need for care and for generosity. This case also presents an overview of the work done by the hearts and hands of COBYS staff and donors as we walk with our clients through their realities and times of uncertainty.
A child’s journey usually starts with intervention by county Children and Youth Services. Children can enter care for reasons of neglect, abuse, addiction and homelessness, among others.
The heartbreaking step
It’s official. With a stroke of a pen a court order separates Layla and her brother Sal from their biological parents. This systematic, seemingly cold process includes a flurry of activity by judges, clerks, lawyers, Guardian Ad Litems and caseworkers.
Where it starts for COBYS
COBYS steps in to comfort the scared and confused children, finding them a safe and loving foster home. Foster/resource families play a vital role in providing stability in a foster child’s life. Once in care, and depending on the need, children are assigned to receive foster care, adoption, counseling or family life education services provided by COBYS. Layla and Sal are extremely fortunate that a foster family can take them both. Finding foster homes for sibling groups, especially “older” siblings is a challenge.
The first days
During the very hectic first days in the foster care system, COBYS strives to provide calm. Layla’s life has been disrupted even more than it was before she was placed in a completely foreign environment. Establishing safety and stability along with trust is paramount in the early days.
COBYS staff present the situation to the foster parents and to Layla and her brother with honesty, compassion and hope, spelling out the process and possibilities. The early goal is to keep them safe and get them comfortable in their new surroundings.
Coordination of services
Beyond a safe place to call home, there are health and education services to set up and coordinate. Care professionals at every level offer a myriad of therapies and support to help move Layla and her brother toward healing.
Don’t forget activities like sports, music, clubs and more. COBYS helps foster parents make sense of it all.
The Foster Parents
Called to serve, foster families provide love, safety and a semblance of stability for foster children. Acceptance and patience are key as these families manage with the hard truths in the lives of the foster child.
Visits and interactions with biological family members don’t necessarily stop when a child is in care. Reunification is usually the goal before adoption is considered. Layla’s caseworkers make sure these visits occur and are beneficial for her.
The Biological Parents
We all experience challenges. Some of us are fortunate enough to be equipped to handle challenges and have a support structure for assistance. Many are not so fortunate. Bad choices, circumstances and past trauma can compound to spiral into issues beyond our control and ability to fix alone. The hopes and dreams of the past crumble. Social institutions must step in, and the process can begin to work toward a path to recovery.
An uphill climb
Meeting the needs of children is challenging even for those with all the resources in the world. Homelessness makes it nearly impossible. How do you provide for the health and safety of a child if you have no place to sleep at night? Imagine trying to recover from addiction if you are constantly wondering where your next meal will come from. Layla’s parents know these struggles.
COBYS can’t solve problems for biological parents, but we do encourage them, walk with them and connect them to services, providing a path towards successful parenting.
Layla has already been through a lot in her eleven years. Her family has been homeless before. She has seen addiction, neglect and abuse first-hand. She has cared for her younger brother while just getting by herself. She’s a bright girl, but truancy issues challenged the chance for good grades in school. Although she doesn’t have the anger issues to the degree of her brother, she has engaged in dangerous behavior.
Without a consistent, positive role model, her path forward is uncertain.
Caring for the whole child
A child in foster care needs services to address their unique challenges. COBYS, with the help of foster parents, coordinates care in a way that builds and nurtures the positives in a child’s life, while addressing the challenges.
After all, every child should be praised and should be able to have fun, play with friends or siblings, have a hobby and participate in a sport. Each person is more than just the challenges they face.
Stable force. Advocate. Compassionate counsel. Passionate supporter. Truthful companion. These are some of the roles of a caseworker for a child in care at COBYS.
Caseworkers walk with the children, foster families and biological families through their journey towards permanency in whatever form that takes.
Investing in quality
COBYS caseworkers receive 40 hours of training annually to provide expert, quality care. They are knowledgeable of best practices on topics including reporting abuse, human services regulations, ethics, trauma, attachment, resilience and strengthening parents and families; all for the children and families in our care.
The path forward
Trauma and broken relationships affect our brains in tangible ways, impacting our behaviors. COBYS therapists connect with children to address challenges, providing coordinated care between multiple services received at COBYS and in the community, giving them the best chance for a brighter future.
Crucial for healing and wholeness, therapists at COBYS provide evidence-based trauma therapy for children like Layla and adults, giving them tools to heal broken relationships and move forward with hope.
Family Life Education
Evidence-based programs give parents, children and teens the knowledge they need to parent and act appropriately. Some classes are court-ordered, some are electives, all provide lessons toward responsible behaviors.
The System: The courts, county, state and federal governments
The system can be an ever-changing maze of regulations, meetings and people. Navigation of these interlocking supports requires compassionate experts, like the professionals at COBYS.
Ending with hope
Not all endings are happy. There’s a reason those stories that end “…and they lived happily ever after,” are called fairy tales. Because in social services, even in the seemingly happiest, most secure outcomes like adoption, which can be filled with hope and promise, there has still been loss.
A child may have a new adoptive family that loves them as one of their own, but there are biological parents who lost their child. That child lost their first parents. Reunified families rejoice in being together again but live with the history of the episode of foster care and face a life-long journey to stay on the right path.
Even in joy, there is still underlying trauma and sadness. But hope is tenacious, and it is our goal to make sure children like Layla are never without it on their journey toward their future.
We hope the example of Layla gives you just a small view into the complex child welfare system and the role of COBYS in assisting children and families. If you would like more information, please contact Anne Stokes at email@example.com.