For thirteen years, my life had been chaotic. I moved two or three times a year between my mom in Georgia and my dad, who lived in North Carolina. We never had enough food. There were days when the only thing I ate was school lunch. And drugs were constantly around our home. That was just normal for me. I didn’t know anything different.

In seventh grade, I met my best friend Heather Ricketts. When I went to her house, I realized that this was what a stable family was supposed to look like. I would stay over with her when my stepdad would kick us out of the house, or when there wasn’t any food. Her parents would make me feel like a part of the family. They’d even let me celebrate holidays with them. They were the closest thing to a normal, stable family I had.

One day, when I went to school, my mom told me to get off the bus at my aunt’s house after school instead of coming home. Maybe she knew what was about to happen. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I found DFCS (the Division of Family and Children Services) waiting for me on the front steps. My mom had been arrested for drug possession. That was the day I went into foster care.

I went to one foster home, and then a few days later I moved to a second home. That was when I met my CASA volunteer, Lisa. In our first meeting, I told her that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just stay with Heather’s family. She said to me, “I don’t think that’s how it works, but I’ll look into it.” And she did.

I knew that the Ricketts were already trying to help me. From day one, George and Barb had been on the phone with DFCS to see what was going on and to find out how they could help me. They thought it made sense to just have me move in with them. And that’s what made sense to me, too. There were drug addicts and drunks on both my father’s and my mother’s side. Their house was the one place where I felt safe.

Lisa did everything she could to make it possible for me to go home with the Ricketts. She did a home visit and recommended some improvements to make sure it would meet all the state’s requirements. They did everything they needed to do. Lisa recommended in her court report that I should be placed with the Ricketts, and everybody signed off on the plan.

I moved into the Rickettses’ home right before my 14th birthday. They had a party for me, and I made sure Lisa was there too. I was able to focus more on school after I moved there. I got more involved in clubs, and I was even president of our school’s chapter of the Health Occupations Students of America.

Lisa changed my life. The difference between Lisa and everyone else in the system was that Lisa was really interested in who I was. They all did their jobs, but nobody else tried to get to know me as a person. Lisa wanted to connect with me, not as a case she was working, but as a person. Even though she was brand new as a CASA volunteer, she did everything she could to help me get into a permanent home.

Jacke is currently attending Gainesville State College in Georgia and hopes to become an emergency room physician.