Flathead Valley CASA for Kids recently held a meeting to teach members of the community about the ins and outs of the organization. Their hope was to raise awareness of the need for foster care advocates in the area. There were plenty of current advocates in attendance for others to meet and ask questions about their experiences. An upcoming training class, CASA 101, will be held in Flathead in September. Application packets are available for the pick. They must be completed and returned by August 15th.

CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, are assigned to minors who are in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect. The volunteers act as the child’s guardian ad litem. They follow the child through their case to ensure the decisions being made are in the child’s best interest.

“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.”

Volunteers for CASA must complete 50 hours of training. There is no experience in law or social work required. Training will include education in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system, and the special needs of kids in foster care. They will have continuous support and supervision by an advocate coordinator. A volunteer must be able to commit a certain amount of time to stay alongside a child for the duration of the case. Most cases last an average of a year and a half. Volunteers will need to spend about ten hours a month on the child’s case.

For more information, call CASA’s office at (406) 755-7208 or email Daniel Verardo at dverardo@flatheadcasa.org.