Two Pueblo, Colorado foster care caseworkers who are members of AFSCME Local 1335 (Council 76) have been honored for tirelessly researching the family details and harrowing case history of a nine-year-old child, work that was crucial to finding a safe home for the child.
Josette Jaramillo and Lori Rafferty were recognized with Excellence in Practice awards for work performed in 2012 by the state of Colorado division that administers foster care. Jaramillo is president of Local 1335 in Pueblo and vice president of AFSCME Council 76. Rafferty is a member of the local.
The girl’s parents brought her to the state to put her into the foster care system, saying she had no siblings or relatives. But Jaramillo’s investigation ultimately revealed that the parents had an extensive history of child abuse and sexual abuse – and that they had at least 18 adult and other adopted children between them. Moreover, 12 had been removed and placed permanently with relatives.
Getting creative through such non-traditional search methods as Facebook, Rafferty uncovered the girl’s 18-year-old sister, who was living with her 16-year-old sister in Texas. They told Rafferty about sexual abuse and neglect suffered at the hands of the biological parents, and provided contact information for three other siblings.
After all that detective work, the Department of Human Services began filing for termination of the biological parents’ parental rights. And the adoptive parents of the 16- and 18-year old girls expressed a desire to adopt the nine-year-old.
To top it all off, Jaramillo and Rafferty had the privilege of introducing the young girl to two of her five biological siblings.
“We were able to establish a sibling relationship with a child who didn’t think she had siblings,” Jaramillo said. “I felt awesome. I drove her down to Lubbock, Texas, so she could meet them. She now realizes she’s not alone in the world.”
Rafferty was also deeply affected by the case.
“I really would just say that there is no other feeling like it,” she said of helping connect the child to her siblings. “It doesn't matter how many times I find family. The gratitude that comes from these children and youth is the biggest and the best reward.”