“Can I call you?”
Richard, a child served by the Custody Advocacy Program (CAP), spoke those words to Amanda “Boo” Raymond after his custody case had been resolved.
Raymond said, “Of course, you can call me any time. When you are ready to look into colleges, let’s talk and I can help you.” Then he said, “Can I hug you?” Raymond responded, “Yes, of course.”
Raymond was assigned to the custody case involving Richard when he was 8 years old. Richard was living with his mother, who was battling drug and substance abuse and mental health issues. He and his mother constantly moved, bouncing from motel to motel or sleeping at a friend’s house. Due to an unstable environment and safety concerns, Richard’s grandparents sought custody.
Raymond will never forget the first time she met Richard. “I said ‘We are here for you. Our only job is to make sure everyone involved knows what you want because you have a voice too,’” she said.
Now at age 16 and in the custody of his grandparents, Richard is thriving in school and at home. He wants to go to college and become a writer.
“Richard knows there are people who care enough about him because I would always say, ‘These people love you. They are just fighting because everybody loves you so much,’” Raymond said. “At first, I don’t think he believed me, but as he got older and people stuck around, it made him see he was really worth caring about.”
The Custody Advocacy Program could not help children in difficult custody cases without volunteers. Not only do they bring value to Council for Children’s Rights, but their input is highly regarded by Family Court judges.
“We are the only people who can look at the best interest of the child without having our interest involved,” Raymond said. “We are not the grandparents. We are not the aunt. We are not the uncle. We are not the parents. We are not someone who has a bias.”
The CAP team’s work is not always easy, but definitely rewarding. “You are serving the children, but the children bring something to you as well, and, you are putting the families in a better place,” Raymond said.