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Helping foster care kids, beating the odds

CASA program helps abused and neglected children
Posted at 8:05 AM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 13:31:51-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) – At 21 years old, Schelby Caddell would tell you she thought she’d either end up dead or in jail by now.

The now married mother of three says a complete stranger changed her life six years earlier.

Autumn Smelser spent time with her on the weekends serving as relief from her chaotic upbringing filled with child abuse and neglect, she says.

The duo also addressed Caddell's anger issues, perhaps a result of her parents abandonment.

They were unfit parents and chose their lifestyle over us, Caddell says.

Smelser also dedicated a lot of her time talking to judges and lawyers on behalf of the younger Caddell.

She wound up in Caddell's life through a program known as CASA, short for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The advocate became interested in the program when watching a newscast only to learn Pottawattamie County didn’t offer anything at the time. Years later, she saw an ad in her paper encouraging volunteers.

More than a decade ago, a judge appointed her to the position.

Her path crossed Caddell's where it remained for nearly four years as she made recommendations based on her observations to a judge overseeing the then-teen's case.

Eventually, Caddell found stability by living with her grandparents. She graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. Unlike what she witnessed in her earlier years, she chose to be the thing she yearned for: a dedicated stay-at-home mom.

Time passed once authorities removed Smelser from Caddell's case.

Recently, the two met up at the same place that brought them together - the Pottawattamie County Courthouse.

Playing catch-up, Smelser looked at photos of Caddell's children while asking how her siblings and grandparents are doing.

"I'm just so proud of Schelby," Smelser says. "I was just the catalyst."

She pulled herself out of certain predicaments to have the life she has now, she said.

In their conversations, Smelser did ask an important question:

Would Caddell be interested in becoming an advocate?

Caddell's response: