Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA: Advocating for child victims of abuse and neglect
July 1, 2016
Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for children in abuse and neglect court cases. Our mission is to inspire, educate and empower community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and at-risk children to help ensure safety and permanency in their lives. NWRM CASA began through the request of Chief Judge Michael A. O'Hara III in 2008, who recognized the need for the program. We are one of 16 independent CASA programs in Colorado, and we hold a Certificate of National CASA Membership and Standards Compliance.
We serve abused and neglected children in Colorado's 14th Judicial District: Routt, Grand and Moffat counties. Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect occur in our community. According to the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, 2014 saw 114 new victims of abuse or neglect in our district, with 23 children being removed from their homes due to safety issues. NWRM CASA served 16 cases and 31 children in our 2013-14 fiscal year and 22 cases and 39 children in our 2014-15 fiscal year. If you suspect, or are the victim of child abuse or neglect, please call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-844-CO-4-KIDS.
Dependency and Neglect cases are filed when the Department of Human Services determines that a child was abused or neglected and that court proceedings are warranted. The children involved are frequently removed from their home and placed into temporary care. The Judge may appoint a CASA volunteer — simply called a CASA, or Court-Appointed Special Advocate — as an advocate for the child in D&N cases, free of charge.
We currently have 29 CASAs: 13 from Routt County, eight from Moffat County and eight from Grand County. CASAs spend 32 hours in pre-service training and 12 hours of annual in-service training. A CASA's duties, outlined in Colorado's Revised Statutes, include: interviewing the child and other appropriate individuals, reviewing relevant records and reports, determining whether an appropriate treatment plan has been created and whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family, and assuring that the child's essential needs are bring met and best interests are being advocated throughout the case. CASAs provide written reports throughout the case, which include recommendations that are consistent with the best interests of the child.
CASAs work closely with the child's attorney, DHS, and the attorneys for the parents in each case. Our volunteers only serve the children of one family at a time. CASAs strive to be a constant, supportive adult face for these children, to be the eyes and ears for the Judge, and to give these children, whose lives have been turned upside down, a voice in court.
We are always looking for CASA volunteers. If you have a passion for helping child victims of abuse or neglect, we would love to hear from you. Learn more at http://www.rockymountaincasa.org.
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Suzanne Fegelein, J.D., is Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA's executive director.Suzanne Fegelein, J.D., is Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA’s executive director.Suzanne Fegelein, J.D., is Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA's executive director.