The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program in Great Falls welcomed three new volunteers on Friday.
The volunteers spend six hours each week learning how to represent abused and neglected children in court.
Johanna Bules has been training to be a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, to make a difference in the lives of children. “I was looking for a way to be more involved in the community. I feel as a young person without kids I have a lot of free time and a lot to give,” Bules said.
Her job is to study a child’s case, meet with those involved, and express what she feels is best for the child in need. “You do meet with the child a couple times a month but you also try to meet with the parents, the foster parents, the teachers, counselors, everybody involved to get the best picture of the case and what is going to be the best placement for the child,” Bules said.
Longtime CASA advocate Pat Feeley believes addiction plays a role in the prevalence of child abuse cases. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon in these cases to have them reappear. Particularly, for example, in the issue of an addicted mother with meth - then another child appears and we go through the same thing again. The program is very much affected by the ravages of addiction,” Feeley said.
Feeley is committed to speaking out for the kids who can’t do so themselves. “I think if we do anything right in our culture it should be to protect children who are innocent. And this program is really designed to do that through the court system and the state.
He hopes more people will answer CASA’s call. “We probably never have enough volunteers. Cascade County has a large number of families in need. I’m hoping that other people will learn about CASA and will consider volunteering,” Feeley said.
- Be 21 years of age
- Have a valid driver's license and your own transportation
- Undergo comprehensive background checks
- Have no record of child abuse or violent crimes
- Participate in an interview with staff
- Provide references before beginning training
- Complete 30 hours pre-service training
- Commit to one year of service & 12 hours annual ongoing training
For more information, call 406.454.6738, or click here to visit the website .