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Keeping watch over kids in the system

An H.B. couple helps twins who might otherwise fall through the cracks inside Orange County foster care.

May 08, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Huntington Beach residents Richard and Patricia Robitaille have worked with twin boys through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for more than a year. CASA's annual Black and White Ball is May 18.
Huntington Beach residents Richard and Patricia Robitaille… (Courtesy the Robitailles )

Richard Robitaille feels gratified when the twins race to him, waving greetings.

They're not his children; they're not even related. They are 5-year-old boys who he has nurtured for more than a year with his wife Patricia.

Although this responsibility befell the Huntington Beach residents as part of their work with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), they doled out the same care that they would have given to their own grandchildren, who are about the same age.

"Watching their personalities change, although it's nothing drastic, gives me a warm teddy bear feeling," said Richard, 73.

The siblings were 2 years old when they were taken away from their mother and placed in a group home. That's where the Robitailles first met them.

According to Patricia, the boys' emotional and behavioral issues could be linked to hardships experienced in childhood. While the goal was to keep them together, CASA was struggling to place the brothers in a foster home.

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"They found a really good family that wanted to adopt the boys," said Patricia, 66. "But what wound up happening, through a lot of counseling, support and time with Rich and I, is that they are going to be permanently reunited with their mom soon."

Richard deems this a "success story" because the optimum outcome is for children to return to a regular Iife with their own parents.

Patricia described an absence of stable support in the lives of most CASA children, making the advocates' contributions even more valuable.

"They've been taken away from their parents," she said. "Foster homes can be very inconsistent, and they might move frequently from one to another, so they just don't have someone who is really on their side. It is really emotionally reassuring, helps them feel good about their lives and gets them through a lot of difficult times when they have someone to spend time with."

CASA, the nation's sole provider of court-appointed advocates for foster youths, includes an Orange County chapter that serves half of the nearly 3,000 abused and neglected children in the local foster care system.

These children make their way to CASA based on recommendations by dependency court judges, attorneys and social workers, Chief Development Officer Susan Kirkland said.

"The most severe cases are referred to CASA," she continued. "These children have no family to support and love them."

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