CASA volunteer Linda Wright could see that young Arianna’s mother was doing all the right things to get her daughter back.
Program: CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties
Location: Somers Point, NJ
Helen Horant’s toughest times during rehab had less to do with kicking her cocaine habit than proving she was fit to win her daughter back. Thanks to her own determination – and CASA volunteer Linda Wright’s stalwart advocacy for Helen’s daughter, Arianna – mother and daughter were reunited.
When Helen got into a residential “Mommy and Me” program, where children can live with their moms during their recovery, authorities wouldn’t let little Arianna stay with her at first. They needed to make sure Helen’s erratic behavior was drug-induced, not due to mental illness.
For five long months, she only got to see her baby girl every couple weeks. So she saved up her brightest smiles, her warmest hugs and kisses, and made the most out of each visit.
Linda was impressed the first time she saw Helen in mama mode. Sitting on the floor and playing with her daughter, Helen oozed joy and affection. Her giggly girl would run down the hallway and back into her mommy’s arms, squealing with glee – again and again. Linda describes Helen as “a natural-born mother, extremely open-armed and loving.”
The first time Helen heard her daughter had a court-appointed advocate, she was skeptical.
“I was pretty much like, ‘Great, one more person to tell me what I was doing wrong,’” Helen says. “She ended up being the most positive person I ever met.”
The long wait to get Arianna back was agonizing. Linda could see that Helen was doing all the right things. She kept jealousy and resentment at bay by focusing on staying clean, lending a hand to the other moms and kids at Sunrise House, and proving was more than just “fit” to be mom — that she would be the best mom Arianna could ever dream to have.
When Helen received a parental reunification award, CASA volunteer Linda was there cheering her on.
“That drive within her was so great, and her love for Arianna was so great, that she just wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that,” says Linda, a retired school teacher and mom who adopted her daughter out of foster care.
Helen has been clean and sober for three years now. She and Arianna live at an oceanfront motel south of Atlantic City that Helen manages. In 2011, Legal Services of New Jersey honored Helen with a parent reunification award, and Linda was there cheering her on. It was a proud moment for both women.
Helen’s now a PTA mom who shuttles her daughter to cheerleading practice. She’s hosting a Mother’s Day tea at Arianna’s preschool. If it hadn’t been for Linda’s steady, reassuring presence, she’s not sure she would’ve made it. “I was just a number in the system without my CASA volunteer.”
Read more stories from CASA volunteers across the nation by visiting the National CASA website at www.casaforchildren.org