Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Craig Crosby email@example.com
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Danyelle Carson in her home office on Thursday in Leeds.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
“A few words from my (guardian) changed my life,” Carson said.
A ‘forever home’
The seeds the guardian planted took time to bloom, however. Carson spent the next eight years bouncing between foster homes, group homes and shelters.
“I bounced around a lot,” she said. “The Department of Human Services called me yo-yo girl.”
Carson says now that she was challenging as a child, which in part led to her short stays with various foster families. Carson was homeless by the time she was 12 and began staying at Preble Street’s Lighthouse Teen Shelter in Portland. Even during that time, however, the guardian’s encouragement was enough to keep Carson from following others at the shelter who spent days aimlessly. Carson knew if she was going to be a lawyer she had to keep attending school.
“I spent my days at school and the Preble teen center,” she said. “I still had a long way to go until I found my forever home. Every time I wanted to give up I heard her saying, ‘You can do this. You just have to work.’”
Carson spent the winter at the shelter. Then one night her friend’s parents, Charles and Natalie Hale of Buxton, showed up to take her home with them. Carson had befriended the Hales’ daughter, Jenn, several years earlier while attending the church pastored by Charles Hale.
“They said, ‘We can’t let you stay like this,’” Carson said. She continues to hold a close friendship with the Hale family.
Carson lived with the Hales for a couple of years, during which time she attended a church youth group in Portland. It was there that she met Ryan McNally, who became one of Carson’s best friends.
His parents, Mark and Diane McNally, asked Carson to come and live with them. Carson was 15 years old, but she was finally home. She continued to test the McNallys’ love and devotion to see if it would crack under pressure. She eventually learned the bonds could withstand the strain. The family formally adopted Carson when she was 21.
“I was a McNally,” Carson said, the joy of belonging still bright in her eyes.
Her dream of “a forever home” achieved, Carson set out to pursue her goal of becoming an attorney. A 2000 graduate of Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, Carson got an associate degree in the paralegal program and joined a Lewiston law office while continuing to work toward a bachelor’s degree. She graduated in 2010 with a criminal justice degree from the University of Phoenix.
Carson took an extended leave from her job when beset by a heart problem in 2011. By the time she was well enough to return to work she still had a job waiting for her, but the position she loved was now filled by someone else. Carson decided it was time to jump into law school at the University of Maine. She continues to commute to Portland several times a week. Jeff Carson has had to pick up a lot of the slack around the house.
He hopes to turn the old farmhouse in to a full-time family farm when his wife begins her law career.
“He’s incredible,” Danylle Carson said. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without him.”
Time and heart
Carson heard about the need for CASA volunteers when McCullum gave a presentation during one of the Carson’s classes.
“I was the first to raise my hand and say, ‘Where’s is the training and how do I sign up?’”
The process begins with an extensive application process that includes letters of recommendation and permission for an exhaustive background check, McCullum said. Those selected out of that process are invited to take part in the four-day, 30 hour training. Once the training is complete, there is a final interview to see if the volunteer and agency agree the program is a good fit. Those who complete the process are assigned a case almost immediately, McCullum said. Cases typically take about a year to work through the judicial system.
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