Seven-month-old Gabe came into the care of Harris County Child Protective Services (CPS) because his parents were panhandling in the scorching sun under unsafe conditions. When a very sunburned Gabe first arrived at the home of his foster parents, Neal and Bekah Springer, he was scared and malnourished.
Neal noticed almost immediately that Gabe was more comfortable with him than he was with his wife, Bekah. The two of them bonded quickly, while it took a little while longer for Gabe to be comfortable with Bekah. They later learned that Gabe's biological mom suffered from some mental health trauma and there was a real sense of instability. This was part of the reason Gabe struggled to bond with Bekah in the beginning, and all women really. Gabe could perceive, even at the young age of seven or eight months, that his biological mother was loving and caring sometimes, and indifferent toward him at other times. Her inconsistency caused him to keep his distance from most women.
A couple of months into the case, Dever Lorenz became Gabe’s advocate and went to meet him for the first time. “From my first visit with him, he had my heart. He had the biggest eyes and such a sweet, calm demeanor,” Dever said.
Dever quickly got to work learning about Gabe’s history and his family. Gabe’s biological parents had been living in a shelter when Gabe came into foster care, and his mom had prior history with CPS in the past. Gabe’s biological mom also had a significant history of mental illness that she was unwilling to address or acknowledge. She and Gabe’s biological dad had been homeless for quite some time. They would stay in motels as they could afford to with the money they collected from panhandling. Their life lacked stability and a consistent place to call home with a young baby boy.
Each month, Dever visited Gabe at his foster home with the Springers. While in the care of the Springers, Gabe began to blossom into a fun-loving toddler. Neal and Bekah saw him start to open up to Dever in particular. He became comfortable with her when he had been so closed off before.
The court assigned Gabe’s biological parents a service plan that included parenting classes, psychological evaluations, stable housing, as well as compliance with any necessary medications. They were also allowed to have family visits to see Gabe while he was in foster care. Gabe’s biological mom came frequently, but his dad regularly missed their visits. Gabe struggled to adjust after each visit, not knowing what to expect, but Dever served as a source of comfort for him.
“There were visitations that Dever went to, and Gabe’s mood in transitioning back to our house was so much better. I think Gabe knew, not only is she safe and someone he could rely on, but he got to see her [Dever] with all these other people. I think it helped ease some of his stress,” Bekah said.
“Gabe’s biological mom came from a difficult home with CPS history and reported being abused herself. I really did feel a lot of empathy for her, but Gabe’s best interest was always my main goal.” Dever explained. She observed that Gabe’s biological parents did not seem mentally capable of caring for Gabe independently. It seemed as though his mother was more concerned with Gabe being in her care for her happiness, rather than what was best for Gabe.
Throughout the time that Dever was Gabe’s advocate, every other party involved experienced turnover. Gabe’s CPS caseworker, his ad-litem attorney and CPS’s attorney all changed within a month or two toward the end of the case when the case was nearing trial. Dever persistently contacted every single new person on Gabe’s case. She explained everything she had learned about Gabe, his family history and his current foster home. No detail was left untold.
With all the time Dever had spent on the case, she felt confident that Gabe’s foster parents were the best possible permanent placement for Gabe.
Just before the trial began, Gabe’s mom relinquished her parental rights. Gabe’s father’s rights were terminated due to his lack of completed court services. When they appeared before the judge, Dever, the attorneys and the CPS caseworker were all able to present a unified case for Gabe, thanks to the information Dever gathered and the relationships she built.
Gabe was adopted by the Springers, and Dever was there to celebrate with his family. Neal and Bekah were grateful to have her there, and Gabe was as excited as ever to see her. Bekah noted, "Their relationship is not done just because we are out of the foster care system. I think that it’s important that Gabe gets to have that relationship."Gabe continues to thrive in his forever home. He is a happy, bubbly toddler who is excelling in his speech and developing beautifully. Most importantly, he is safe and secure, with his forever parents who love him and are looking out for him, always.