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The Healing Power of Love

Photo of young child looking past camera and smiling.

Serena’s* mother loved her, but was overwhelmed by caring for her and her two older brothers. One day she was giving 4-month-old Serena a bath, but became distracted and walked away, leaving the hot water running. Serena was hospitalized with serious burns on her legs.

The hospital called the child abuse hotline and a DC family court judge opened a neglect case, placed Serena in foster care, and appointed Kristen Pisani-Jacques, a Children’s Law Center attorney, to represent her best interests. Kristen first talked to Serena’s mother, who admitted she was not able to take care of Serena. Kristen also met Serena’s aunt, Ms. D, who volunteered to help.

Ms. D visited Serena every day at the hospital and showed her dedication by taking over the responsibility for applying the medicated lotion necessary to heal Serena’s burns. Kristen worked with DC’s child welfare agency to expedite the process to license Ms. D so that Serena would be able to live with her when she left the hospital. Once home Serena flourished, and Ms. D never missed a day applying the lotion. Serena’s doctors credit Ms. D with Serena’s speedy recovery and the minimal scarring that resulted.

Ms. D was committed to raising Serena, but felt that adopting her would be disrespectful to Serena’s birth mother. Kristen explained that guardianship, a form of legally permanent custody, was an alternative to adoption. With Kristen’s support, Ms. D secured a guardianship order. Although the court case was over, Kristen stayed in touch. When Ms. D noticed that Serena wasn’t learning to talk, she asked Kristen for help. Kristen helped Ms. D secure an evaluation and the speech therapy needed to address the delays. That was the boost Serena needed. She has started school and is doing well.

Serena celebrated her fourth birthday with a princess party, complete with a fancy crown and a visit from a “real life” princess. It was a special, memorable day. But thanks to Ms. D and Kristen, Serena has the love and the security she needs to feel like a princess every day.

* Children’s Law Center works hard to protect our clients’ confidentiality. The family members’ names have been modified based on the client’s request. All other details are true.