For the Sillanpaa family, Sept. 23, was no ordinary day. It was adoption day for 6-year-old Grayson who made a grand arrival to the court house … in a dump truck! It was the truck enthusiast’s one wish for that day.
His mom, Airial Doubleday Sillanpaa says Grayson was not the first child they adopted, rather, he was the fourth from three families. As a long-time foster family, Airial said it’s kind of surprising, but they’ve had a CASA on the case for each of their foster children, and she says working with CASAs over the years has shown her the good in people.
“I consider them everyday angels,” Airial says. “They are just regular people, but they step in and they are able to advocate and speak for a child who is too young, or maybe just not ready or able.”
Airial says Grayson’s CASA Charlotte was a wonderful person to have in his life. Grayson called her Miss Charlotte, and Airial she would come to their house to see him, to play and to talk about his life. And even though he was little, Charlotte made it a point to make him feel comfortable about talking about things that were hard for him to think about. For instance, he mentioned he missed some of his toys at his house, and at that age, that’s hard, she says.
“(Having a CASA) really just gives them a platform,” Airial says.
And it provides an extra layer of support from someone really there to be neutral and objective, making sure the child’s needs are a priority, she says. In the case of one of her other children, Airial says the CASA was an invaluable support. She was a “squeaky wheel” who helped get Airial’s medically fragile child the support needed. “I don’t know that that would have happened without our CASA,” Airial says.
While COVID changed a lot of the ways in which people connected this year, Airial says Charlotte was great about checking in via email and on the phone and phoning into meetings.
One of her favorite moments, she says, was in the final months of Grayson’s case, they held a Zoom meeting with DCYF, CASA and Waypoint under the kitchen table because Grayson had made it into a fort. And in that moment, it wasn’t about her squeezing under a table while Grayson met with his team, it was about what worked for him at that time.
“Everybody just rolled with the punches.”
Because of COVID-19, adoption day also looked a little different. Where it previously would have been a large celebration with the Sillanpaa family, Grayson’s team of caseworkers, CASA and others, this adoption came just after courts re-opened on a limited basis and they could have just 10 people in the room. Her family made up 8, the judge was 9, Airial says. And number 10? Grayson invited Charlotte to join them for the special day.