Wallace 'Wally' Ward has been a court appointed advocate for four years. In those years he has served 13 children (more like 18, considering that he is currently serving five repeat children), several with severe emotional, medical or educational needs. Whatever the challenge or obstacle, Wally always chooses to go above and beyond to make sure every child he serves feels known, seen, and fought for.
Wally is currently advocating for a teenage boy, John* who has several psychiatric diagnoses and a list of presenting behaviors that make him seem difficult on paper. To make sure John could receive all the help he needs, Wally contacted disability rights to see if they would take John's case. Wally took ownership of this process, organizing all of the required paperwork to make this happen. He was even appointed the surrogate educational decision maker for John, a role he takes very seriously and is only helping John. He makes long drives to attend the necessary meetings for John and speaks to the staff where John is staying every week to make sure John is doing well. He is genuinely dedicated to John's wellbeing and wants to see him thrive in a safe environment. "Wally is the only person John will open to," said his Advocacy Coordinator, Joy Reading, "and it is because he knows Wally is there to help him."
Wally has gone out of his way for John, and it is a wonderful example of the way he looks past behaviors to see through to the needs of the children he serves.
In another case, Wally met Rebecca*, a young 12-year-old girl. Rebecca was one of four siblings who had suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of their mom and dad. Because of the trauma she endured, Rebecca was having a hard time at their first foster home. Her occasional outbursts led CPS to increase her level of care and send her to a foster home that supported that particular care level, separating her from her siblings. Her behaviors seemed to worsen in her new placement, and a specific incident led her to be placed in a psychiatric facility. When Wally was able to see her, his heart broke for her. He could see that Rebecca was scared, and she wanted to see her siblings. Wally was new to the case and had only met Rebecca once previously, but she already developed trust for him and didn't she want Wally to leave. "This girl needs the people who love and care for her around," Wally reported.
Currently, Wally makes calls to Rebecca and her siblings almost every day. Without sibling visits, these calls are all Rebecca has. Wally has been able to calm Rebecca down over the phone by telling jokes and recalling pleasant memories with her when she has been scared or crying. Wally is working hard to set up sibling visits for Rebecca. He sees the need for connection to familiarity, and is working to do whatever it takes to make it happen and help her thrive.
In a confusing and hard to navigate system, where everything Rebecca has known is now uprooted, Wally is a source of constancy and a steady presence that she knows she can count on. He is a caring adult who is working to fill in the gaps that have left her feeling isolated.
The willingness to fight for a child and see who they are, beyond what is said of them on paper is in part what makes our advocates' role, and particularly Wally, so special. Wally has participated in many of our events as a volunteer, spent hours copying case files for other cases, and has even served as a mentor for other advocates.
There are no better words that exist to describe Wally besides "above and beyond," according to Joy. His care is making a real impact in the lives of Houston's abused and neglected children. Because of this outstanding work and deep commitment to the children he serves, Wally was named our May 2019 Advocate of the Month. Congratulations and thank you, Wally!
To learn how you can become a volunteer and make an impact like Wally, click here.
*Names were changed to protect the privacy of the parties involved.