Bay Area Legal Services helped over 1,500 veterans and their families in 2021.
Nazereah, better known as “Naz”, was only 6 years old when her father, a Sergeant in the US Army, was tragically killed in battle. Leaving her family, a “Gold Star Family”. Now at the age of 21, Naz was living on her own, working full time and earning her degree online, when she was hit with more devastating news, she was now completely orphaned. Naz’s mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her to care for her three younger siblings, Kevyn (16), Arabella (13) and Bentley (9).
There were no family members that could raise her siblings after their mother’s death. Naz wanted to step up and care for her siblings so that they would not be separated, but she was overwhelmed. She knew currently that she could not afford to care for 3 children, and she didn’t know what steps to go through to obtain legal guardianship. Thankfully Naz was referred to Bay Area Legal Services by a community partner, and she was assigned to attorney Maria Ceballos-Zagales of our Maj. Gen. Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center.
There were some challenges to getting Naz guardianship. The two youngest siblings were her half siblings and had two different fathers. One of the fathers lived abroad and the other one her mother had not spoken to in years and no one knew his whereabouts. Eventually, both fathers were found and gave consent for Naz to be her sibling’s legal guardian. Maria also assisted Naz in applying for additional VA benefits. These benefits will increase the income she needs to raise three children, for her and her siblings to attend college, and to possibly become homeowners in the future through a VA loan.
After all that, Naz was then granted temporary guardianship of her three siblings. They get to remain together as a family. Naz can now focus on caring for her brothers and sister as they grieve the loss of their mother, and look forward to happier things, like her upcoming college graduation in the fall.