Anyiah came into the care of Child Protective Services (CPS) just days after she was born as a result of her biological mother’s addiction. Her alleged biological father was out of state and unable to take custody, so she was placed in the care of her maternal great-grandmother, and the judge appointed Frank as an advocate to her case.
Frank made his initial visit to meet Anyiah at her great-grandmother’s home. The home was clean and safe, and Anyiah appeared to be doing okay with plenty to eat. Frank observed that she was well-loved by her great-grandmother, but he had concerns about her ability to care for Anyiah long term. She was also unable to find appropriate care for Anyiah when she was at work and mentioned that Anyiah’s biological mother would come and go from her home without notice. Frank did not feel confident that this home was the best place for Anyiah to stay long term.
At the same time, Frank worked alongside CPS to learn more about Anyiah’s biological mom. The authorities attempted to locate her so that she could begin working on her court-ordered services, but they were unable to find her. She seemed to have disappeared after Anyiah was born.
Frank, together with CPS and Anyiah’s attorney, decided that Anyiah should be moved to a foster home. The judge granted their request and they arranged a meeting through a local adoption agency to review available placements. The team was shown three potential families, and Frank was immediately drawn to the profile of Dahria and Rob Driskell. Everyone agreed that the Driskell home would be the right placement for Anyiah, and Dahria and Rob were notified that they had been matched with a little girl.
Each month, Frank visited the Driskell family to check on Anyiah. He brought clothes and toys for her, sitting on the floor with her while she played. He watched as she grew and developed and overcame health issues like ear infections and acid reflux. He kept up with her recommendations from Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), and stayed in regular contact with Rob and Dahria about how she was doing.
With each new development in the case, it became increasingly clear that it was in Anyiah’s best interest to stay with the Driskells where she was growing and thriving. Frank saw the opportunity for Anyiah to feel safe and grow up with a stable family and parents who adored her.
After more than six months without contact from Anyiah’s biological mother, the judge terminated her parental rights. Rob and Dahria were notified that they would be able to adopt Anyiah, and their case was transferred to a group that helped prepare children for adoption. Frank began to close the case as Anyiah’s advocate and made plans to celebrate with her family on adoption day.
Then, in September of 2010, Rob Driskell received a call that stopped him in his tracks. CPS called, asking if they would be interested in caring for Anyiah’s sister who had just been born a few days prior. “I nearly dropped the phone,” Rob said. They had always known they wanted to have multiple children in their home, but they never imagined that those children would be siblings, or children so close in age. They decided it was an opportunity they couldn’t turn down.
“We knew we could never give Anyiah that biological connection on our own. We knew that we would have to answer to Anyiah as an adult and say: when we were faced with this decision, this is what we did,” Dahria said. Anyiah’s younger sister, Amarah came into the Driskell home on the anniversary date that Anyiah had joined them. Exactly one year later.
They immediately called Frank to tell him the news. “For us, that was our next call.” Dahria said, and they asked him, “What do we need to do to have you join us in this?”
Frank had left an impression on the Driskells—he was warm, supportive and communicative. After first meeting Frank, they felt like everyone they worked with would have the same demeanor and were surprised when they did not. “Frank set the bar really high for other people we came into contact with. He kind of spoiled us,” said the Driskells. Rob and Dahria couldn’t imagine adding another child to their home and not having Frank on the case.
Frank worked with his advocacy coordinator and requested to be assigned to Amarah’s case so he could help make sure the process went smoothly. He believed that by advocating for Anyiah and Amarah at the same time, he would ensure that their needs were being met and that they would be able to grow up together in a loving home. Anyiah and Amarah’s biological mother was still nowhere to be found. Since her parental rights for Anyiah had already been terminated, it seemed likely that the judge would do the same for Amarah. Frank made regular visits, following up on doctor’s appointments and being a presence at each court hearing. At one of the final court hearings, Anyiah and Amarah’s biological mother showed up and claimed she wanted to work services to regain custody of her daughter. The judge acknowledged that she had not been present but he allowed her to work her plan toward reunification, however, she could not meet the immediate requests of the court and reunification was denied. Rob and Dahria were able to meet the girls’ biological mother that day and showed her photos of both girls, reassuring her that they were well cared for and loved.
On Anyiah and Amarah’s adoption day, a third little girl was standing before the judge with the family. Another little sister, Alivia, had been born just a week before their adoption hearing, and the Driskell family welcomed her into their home as well.
Frank had supported Anyiah and Amarah, guiding them into a wonderful and loving family. The judge determined that after the work Frank had done on Anyiah and Amarah’s cases, Alivia’s case would be clear-cut and did not need the presence of an advocate.
Frank maintained a relationship with the family, but was not appointed as Alivia’s advocate like he had been with Anyiah and Amarah. Alivia’s adoption was not finalized until more than two years later. “I think that speaks of the efficiency that’s there when Child Advocates is part of a case,” Dahria said, “because it was clearly there with the other two girls. That oversight was crucial … It speaks to the overwhelmed system.”
Now, Anyiah, Amarah and Alivia are three sisters who are inseparable. Each of them is aware that they are adopted, and have begun asking questions about how they joined the Driskell family. Rob and Dahria are quick to mention Frank and the role he played in helping bring them all together. When you ask the Driskells about what it would have felt like without Frank, they say, “The first word that comes to mind is lost. I feel like he gave us experience in a situation we weren’t really prepared for. He navigated it and went before us.” Dahria Driskell said “He was the one that was on their side and representing them 100%. As much as we felt like we were advocating for our kids, we kind of felt like he was their ambassador.”