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Serving with Compassion

Lauren Fernandez (right) poses alongside ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook.

A ProKids community member of over a decade and a CASA Volunteer of almost three years, Lauren Fernandez was inspired to join us due to the countless stories she encountered about children who’d been abused and neglected. Part of a big family, with children of her own, Lauren could see how vulnerable those kids truly were. Understandably, that reality bothered her. But the key with Lauren – why ProKids is lucky to have her – is that when something bothers Lauren, she makes a point “to walk toward it.”

All those who’ve worked with Lauren – from ProKids’ leaders to our advocacy and litigation teams – have found she embodies ProKids values to a T. She’s collaborative, optimistic, persistent, respected and respectful, and she is always learning… Qualities that are especially apparent when we look at the two children she has served.

One of those children is “Quincy,” who was 1 year old when his parents overdosed and tragically died in their home. It’s suspected that Quincy was alone there for days before somebody found him.

Lauren first met him in the home he was placed in – in the care of a family friend, who already housed Quincy’s older brother. Lauren described Quincy as a “firecracker” – thankfully healthy and teeming with potential.

As Quincy’s CASA Volunteer, Lauren encountered a rare situation, as there were two people vying to care for little Quincy: the family friend who had placement, as well as his father’s cousin.

It was a tricky case to navigate because of the tragedy around it and the fact that both potential caregivers tended to look at things in terms of their own self-fulfillment. But as Quincy’s advocate, Lauren worked to understand the bigger picture, looking at the totality of the circumstances to determine who could best care for him.

During her visits, Lauren observed the home he was placed in, an environment where his older brother was thriving. She knew that Quincy could thrive there too, maintaining and growing a bond with his sibling. In the end, the ProKids team advocated for Quincy to remain, and the court agreed.

But according to Lauren, it wasn’t like one or the other had to “win.” By asking questions and encouraging everyone to put Quincy first, Lauren found that a consensus could be formed. The family friend would keep the brothers together, and the cousin would have generous visitation.

Lauren’s considerations in this case – ensuring Quincy was in a safe and caring environment, while strengthening the family system around him – demonstrate what Kyla Hemler, her CASA Manager, knows to be one of Lauren’s greatest attributes: the compassion she offers to all parties involved.

In her current case, Lauren is just as steadfast – acting as a constant for a 6-year-old boy named “Damon.” She has visited Damon at daycare, at home, and they sometimes even play basketball. She’s connected Damon to counselors, who’ve started weekly sessions. Thanks to Lauren, there’s a team of people around him, working to help him heal.

According to Kyla, Lauren is consistent, resourceful and asks all the right questions. Kyla is amazed at the way she’s juggled two cases, while engaging even more to the benefit of our children – as a Friends of Children Society member, a ProKids Breakfast table captain, and a constant strategic partner.

Lauren has worked toward brighter futures behind the scenes and directly with ProKids children. And for that, we are grateful.

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