South Placer CASA mentor, youth develop special bondBy: GCM staff report
Editor’s Note: Some children in this story are referred to by their first names only, due to privacy concerns and the nature of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
Five years ago, 9-year-old Zack was having behavior problems at school and struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Zack's school referred him to Child Advocates of Placer County, asking for an adult mentor.
Around that same time, Granite Bay resident Pat Bomberger had just finished the Child Advocates 30-hour training program and was ready to serve either as a Court Appointed Special Advocate or Mentor.
After observing a child being mistreated by her parents, Bomberger had decided to become a volunteer with CASA.
"Kids don't stand a chance in life with parents like that,” Bomberger said.
One she completed the training and had a new understanding of the program, Bomberger decided that being a mentor through the Child Advocates Adult-to-Youth Mentors, A2Y, program would be a better fit for her.
And then she met Zack.
During their first visit, Bomberger discovered that Zack liked sports, particularly the 49ers football team.
"It was a big deal for me to trust this person,” said the child. "I was nervous, but she was a really nice person and then she took me to Subway and we talked for a while.”
For each of the weekly visits with Zack, Bomberger brought along a backpack filled with balls and sports items, which they took to the park. She also started bringing her bicycle along so the two of them could explore trails around his neighborhood.
"I got a few bruises and scrapes, but Zack enjoyed the outdoors so much, I couldn't turn down the opportunity,” she said.
During the weekly visits, Bomberger asked Zack if there was any homework he needed help with. If he did, they worked on it together before their adventures began.
“After Zack’s eighth- grade graduation,” Bomberger said, “I walked over to thank the staff and told them they had done so much for Zack and under such difficult circumstances. Zack had tried so hard and the school helped him so much.”
Three years after she became Zach’s mentor, his mother passed away.
“Things have changed so much in the first three and half years [of this case] and Child Advocates have been there though the whole thing,” she said.
When Zack needed somewhere to go, he would call on Jessica, the woman who had been married to his biological father. After his father left, Zach and Jessica had stayed in touch.
The woman who had raised Zach since he was three-months-old was his great-grandmother.
Jessica is currently a 26-year-old mother of two and has known Zack since he was 5-years-old.
Because of their strong relationship, Child Protective Services stepped in 18 months ago and granted guardianship to Jessica after she met certain requirements.
Bomberger remained Zack’s mentor as he transitioned into life with Jessica.
"I didn't know what was going on. I'm a single parent, have a 1- and a 4-year-old and no idea how to raise a teenager,” said Jessica, who had been raised in the foster care system and had not had a mentor.
"Mentors don't just help the kids, they also help the parents," she said. "I would have been a different person if I had a ‘Pat’ in my life, I'm learning a lot from Pat.”
Zack’s school work continues to improve. He recently received an award for his GPA.
Best of all, he has a loving guardian and a dedicated mentor that he considers his "aunt."
He often calls Pat just to say hello and see how she is doing.
The two have been together for almost five years, which has allowed them to share a very special bond.
"If people can do this one thing, it can make all the difference in the world,” Bomberger said.
For more information on becoming a CASA mentor or for more information about Child Advocates of Placer County, visit casaplacer.org or call (530) 887-1006.