Flathead Valley CASA for Kids will hold an informative meeting at noon on Thursday, Aug. 2 for community members to learn about the organization and the process of becoming an advocate for children in the foster care system.
The session, which will take place in CASA’s office at 1203 U.S. Highway 2 W., Suite 37 in the Kalispell Gateway Community Center, will provide attendees with the opportunity to meet current advocates and program staff.
CASA, which stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocates,” pairs foster children — kids who are placed under the protection of the court due to abuse or neglect — with volunteers who serve as the child’s guardian ad litem, advocating for actions which are in the child’s best interest. According to the Flathead Valley CASA website, the advocates “serve the children until they find a safe, permanent home.”
Volunteers undergo at least 50 hours of training before being assigned to a case and then receive continuing support from an advocate coordinator. Advocates are responsible for helping the court to find safe placements for kids by preparing a report about each child and monitoring and coordinating the child’s services.
“In an overloaded and bureaucratic system, the CASA can be the one person focused solely on the child’s needs and concerns,” its website states. “By providing a voice for the child, a CASA can be the difference between a system that is cold and impersonal and one that helps the child flourish.”
CASA, which first began as a volunteer program in Seattle, Washington in the late 1970s, was officially established in the Flathead in 2000. Since then, the website states the organization has trained upwards of 170 volunteers who have served as advocates for more than 1,100 children. According to a CASA press release, there were nearly 300 foster children under the protection of Flathead County’s 11th District court system in 2017 alone.
Those interested in becoming volunteers must be at least 21 years old and must pass both criminal and Child Protective Services background checks. Applicants must also commit to completing the prerequisite training, staying with a child throughout the duration of the child’s case and working with professionals to promote the child’s best interest.
“A qualified volunteer will have excellent written and oral communication skills, basic computer skills, a willingness to work with a team, and most important, a heart for children,” the CASA press release states.
Applications must be submitted by Aug. 15 to be considered for the CASA 101 training beginning in September. Application packets are available at the upcoming informational session or can be requested by calling the CASA office.
For more information, call CASA’s office at (406) 755-7208 or email Daniel Verardo at email@example.com.