Peggy Sue Favel vividly recalls her eighth birthday.
Her teacher made cupcakes, and her classmates sang “Happy Birthday. ”
“It was a real nice day, ” she said.
Then she was called to her principal’s office.
The principal told her that she would not be going home to her mother’s house. She would now be living with her father. Her toys, clothes and other personal items were packed and ready to take with her.
She lived with her father for a brief period, then was moved to her grandmother’s house.
She didn‘t understand why she couldn’t see her mother.
“I cried, ” she recalled.
Eventually, when she was 12, she returned to her mother’s house. Her biological father stopped talking to her, and she began to hurt more.
In less than a year, authorities took her out of her mother’s home.
“I became part of the ‘system, ’” she said.
By that, she meant the foster-care system.
Peggy, now 17, told her story last week to a meeting of people interested in becoming volunteers for the CASA program — Court-Appointed Special Advocates — people appointed by judges to advise on what is best for young people brought into the court system through no fault of their own.
After leaving her grandmother’s care, Peggy was moved from one foster family to another.
At first, she thought there would be some advantages to foster care.
“I thought I would be part of a family, ” she said.
But the first foster family she was with didn’t treat her as part of the family.
“I didn’t want to be there, and I thought she didn’t want me, ” she said of her foster mother.
Her relationship with her natural family wasn’t getting any better. Authorities wouldn’t let her attend her brother’s graduation for fear her mother would be there.
Her relationship with foster families got worse.
“It didn’t help that I kept running away, ” she said.
Pat Floyd, Peggy's CASA advocate, wanted to make sure that the “system” did what was best for Peggy. But her work with Peggy went beyond what was required. She became a friend and confidant to Peggy.
Floyd was determined to see that Peggy got good care and she visited her often.
After some brushes with the law, Peggy was placed in another a foster family, one that cared about her.
Her new foster parents, Christian and Allie LeFer of Livingston, had two young children and have since adopted a third.
Her new family treated her like she was a member of the family.
There were some tough times at the start, but Peggy went on history trips throughout the United States — from Maine to Florida. Peggy became interested in history, and still today talks about her visit to Jamestown, Va., where re-enactments made history come alive.
Throughout this time, she and Floyd visited often.
“She was somebody I could talk to, somebody who treated me with respect, ” she said.
Allie LeFer accompanied her foster daughter to Havre last week to watch her give her talk to the CASA volunteers.
Peggy praised CASA and the work it does.
And Floyd praised foster parents and urged people to consider taking on that responsibility.
After years of drifting, Peggy now has goals. She hopes to get her GED, then go to college and eventually get a job working with troubled young people.