By Laurence Kaldor, President of the VCLF
WHEN ROBERTA BLOOM met Miguel in foster care, he was somewhat unique: he had actually chosen to be there. Miguel had come out as gay and quickly found his home life too toxic because of his newly declared orientation. As Roberta explained, “His family was okay with him being gay, but not that gay.”
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) was assigned while Miguel’s case was still being adjudicated and although Miguel could not bring himself to testify against his mother, he refused to return home. “When I met Miguel,” Roberta shares, “I thought, ‘How am I supposed to help him?’ I’m an old, straight white woman. I knew that I needed to help him meet more people who had been through what he was going through.”
Roberta reached out to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood who matched Miguel with a mentor who could be both a friend and a role model. His attorney started the process of enrolling Miguel in Recognize, Intervene, Support, Empower (RISE), a project of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center that connects gay and lesbian youth in the foster care system with appropriate services.
Over the next two and half years Miguel bounced around between group homes and temporary placements. His grades suffered but he was beginning to build a support network outside the “traditional” foster care system.
As Miguel’s support system grew, he began to find stability and success in other areas as well. He transitioned into independent living, got a job at McDonald’s and did the necessary schoolwork in order to graduate. Miguel even reconnected with family in Utah, with whom he felt safe, spending part of his summers away from Los Angeles.
For Miguel, having a CASA was key. “Roberta helped me so much. I was living in a group home, and she helped to introduce me to so many people who wanted to help me.”
In April 2016, Miguel did something he never thought he would do—he went to his prom. Roberta worked
with Glamor Gowns and Suit Up to get Miguel outfitted for his big night. Miguel was able to spend one night being a teenager, without all the stress and responsibilities of foster care life. And then Miguel achieved something even bigger—he was accepted into college.
Miguel’s story continues to be truly inspirational. He is graduating high school with his peers, going to college in Utah near his family, and he knows that his CASA team will provide support throughout. For Miguel, Roberta’s role was simple: “She helped me to become comfortable with being myself.”
CASA is supported by the generous contributions of individuals, companies, and organizations. The VCLF is proud to support CASA and amazing people like Miguel and Roberta Bloom.