Transitions for an adult or an organization are one thing, but imagine yourself as a young child in a home situation where drug use and abuse is the norm.
When your situation is brought to the attention of Children Protective Services (CPS) either by teachers, neighbors, doctors or law enforcement officers, you are removed from all that is familiar and placed in foster care with strangers whom you have never met.
Then you meet your Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children (CASA), who was appointed by a district judge, who shows empathy for you and everything that is happening and tries to explain what is going on in your world. The CASA meets with your foster family, perhaps some members of your family, your teachers, the CPS worker and others who share concern for you and your life.
You are lucky that you have a CASA because you have someone, who is totally committed to your best interests, to talk to about your feelings, answer your questions and represent you in court.
Your CASA will work to ensure you don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in an inappropriate placement. Your CASA will stay with your case until you are placed in a safe, permanent home. Your CASA will be the one constant adult presence while you are in foster care. Your CASA will navigate the confusing, painful and often frightening journey from instability to a safe, permanent home.
You know the importance of your CASA and want to be sure the program continues for others who find themselves in foster care through no fault of their own.
The need is greater than ever to recruit, train and support CASA volunteers to handle the increased number of children who get caught up in the court system due to parental neglect and/or abuse. There are more than 180 children served by the 45 CASA volunteers in Flathead County. Thirty children are now entering foster care and in need of a CASA volunteer but not enough volunteers are trained and currently available.
The Whitefish Community Foundation is critical to the success of CASA. The grant made last year bought a lap top computer for the CASA volunteer coordinator which has helped her be much more effective. Many local residents volunteer their time and efforts as CASA’s. Some volunteers have opened their home for an annual Super Heroes event and others are already planning the 3rd annual Cycling for Children event scheduled for July 26, 2014 which starts and finishes in Whitefish.
How can you make a difference in the lives of a child whom has been abused or neglected?
You can become a CASA volunteer – offering your time and energy to personally touch the life of a hurting child.
If volunteering is not an option for you, financial support is very important to the CASA program. Historically CASA has been supported to a large extent by government grants. Hard as it is to imagine those grants have shrunk over the past several years and CASA has had to depend on more individual and corporate donations. Because of the new emphasis on CASA fundraising a 501(c)(3) foundation was founded two years ago to help focus on the financial needs of supporting CASA. Voices for CASA has been successful and is in the process of merging with CASA for Kids to improve efficiency and help focus on securing financial stability for the organization.
To learn more about CASA locally call Jamie Campball at 755-7208 or visit the Flathead CASA website at www.flatheadcasa.org. The national CASA website is www.casaforchildren.org. Financial donations may be mailed to: Voices for CASA, PO Box 918, Kalispell, MT 59901