HELENA — Learn, engage, recommend, collaborate and report, these five things are all what a court-appointed special advocate must do while speaking for the best interests of neglected and abused children.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties received a $30,000 Core Grant from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association for Children, which Executive Director Gerry Hill says will help expand the organization's ability to serve abused and neglected children.
“When I got here a year ago, we were serving 42% of the children on our caseload about 72% now and we have some more to do,” said Hill.
Hill says the grant was used to hire Program Executive Assistant Sylvia Rosling, who had been involved with the CASA in Missoula during college and says being a part of the organization is a great opportunity.
"To be able to help those in need especially children in our community to need it and don't have certain sources and so it's a great opportunity,” said Rosling.
Hiring one paid member of CASA gives the organization the opportunity to have 30 more volunteers be trained. Currently, there are 54 advocates assigned to cases, and they are in need of more.
CASA Jessica Blumberg says after graduating from law school and passing the bar she wanted to keep doing work in the legal field that helped children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. Being a CASA gives her the opportunity to be their voice in the courtroom.
“These kids need us and they didn't choose to get into the position they are in and they don't know how to get out and even though it's not our job to get them out it's our job to just listen when no one else is listening,” said Blumberg.
A CASA gathers information about the child whose case they are serving, by speaking to teachers, counselors, parents. They also provide written reports at court hearings, and keep the courts informed Update the court on developments with agencies and family members.
Blumberg says by becoming a court-appointed special advocate, the courts recognize you are voluntarily helping the most vulnerable in the court system.
"You are only there because you want to be there, you're not getting paid to be there so you want to be there it feels good to have these kids’ back,” said Blumberg.
Being a CASA volunteer to Blumberg is an important way to serve the community. For Hill, having more members of the community setting aside time to help children, brings him the utmost joy.
"It's really a commitment to walk with this child to understand everything about their needs and their family and their circumstance and then to be able to report that to the court it's a really important thing that we do,” said Hill.
Hill wants to remind those interested in being a CASA that it is a large commitment to serve the communities most vulnerable.
To find more information about volunteering or becoming a CASA you can visit the organizations website here.