Future of Underfunded CASA of Montana State Office Uncertain

The 15 local CASA offices will remain open

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — A Montana nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children faces an uncertain future due to a lack of funding, but its work will continue.

The board of directors for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Montana has voted to close its state office at the end of next month, said executive director Joyce Funda.

The statewide office provides training and assistance to local organizations and provides someone to speak on behalf of CASA.

CASA volunteers are appointed by District Court judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. The 15 local CASA offices will remain open and that effort will continue, Funda said.

Sally Erny, chief program officer for the National CASA Association, said Monday the group is committed to keeping the Montana’s state office open.

“We will be working to assure that there’s adequate funding in Montana to continue operation of the state office,” said Erny. She said national officials would meet with the local offices and assess what is needed. She expects they would provide some financial support in the interim while helping to build a sustainable funding source for the state organization.

CASA of Montana is in talks with the national organization and hopes there is a solution, but without a specific plan in place, the Montana office made a business decision to close, Funda said.

“This was the unfortunate conclusion that we came to,” she said.

The CASA of Montana board has been working for nearly a year to try to find steady funding without success, Funda said.

Funda was a member of the Protect Montana Kids Commission appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to investigate the Division of Child and Family Services and make recommendations for improvement.

Last year, 620 active volunteers served over 2,000 abused and neglected children in Montana, a 28 percent increase over 2014.

“We want to see every child in Montana have a highly trained volunteer advocate to speak for the child’s best interests,” Erny said.

There are local CASA offices in Anaconda, Billings, Bozeman, Conrad, Dillon, Great Falls, Hamilton, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Livingston, Malta, Miles City, Missoula and Polson.

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