Albert was five years old when the child welfare worker found him in his father’s care. The family was homeless. Living arrangements with extended family continued to fail because of the father’s erratic behavior. No family members came forward to care for the child, and Albert was placed in foster care. Serious behavior problems compromised Albert’s adjustment to foster care and to kindergarten. Albert’s foster and school placement were precipitously changed. Because Albert’s attorney maintained regular contact with him, she could document the intensity of the ongoing trauma that Albert was experiencing and the inadequacy of the psychotherapeutic care he was receiving. She argued that achieving permanence and minimizing trauma required exploration of alternative permanent placements for Albert and the development of intensive clinical and educational treatments. Together with the social worker, Albert’s lawyer secured a placement in a private therapeutic day school. This placement gave Albert the intensive behavioral and educational intervention that he needed, and also guaranteed that his education would not be traumatically disrupted again when a permanent living situation was found.
Pressed to explore alternatives, the child welfare agency more completely examined its files on Albert’s extended family and found his maternal grandmother, who was eager to have him. Albert had positive memories of her home. The change in his behavior that coincided with this family placement and with his enrollment in the private therapeutic school was dramatic. Albert’s attorney continued to actively advocate for Albert through hearings to terminate his father’s parental rights and to enable his grandmother to adopt him.
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*Not real names