Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA hires new executive director
The Northwest Rocky Mountain Court Appointed Special Advocates organization welcomed a new executive director this month.
Suzanne “Sue” Fegelein came from Idaho where she was practicing family law. She said everything about taking this position “just clicked” for her, and she is excited to come back to the town that first brought her out west.
In the early 90s, Fegelein traveled out west with friends to visit other friends, and said as soon as she stepped off of the Greyhound bus, fate hit her.
“As soon as I got off of the bus, I felt like ‘oh, I’m supposed to be here,’ and I love the winter,” Fegelein said.
She quickly found a job, called her parents and later road tripped back east to pick up her things from her home outside of Philadelphia.
Fegelein and her husband were happy to move back to Steamboat and be in a community that’s welcoming for families and parents with children.
“It’s such a family friendly community all around us, and I’m thankful we got to come here and raise our kids here,” she said.
As an attorney who worked in family and criminal law, Fegelein was exposed to the affects that divorce, custody and guardianship cases can have on children.
“It kind of just started hitting me that some people cannot put the best interests of their children first,” she said.
Fegelein applied for the CASA executive director position a few months ago and began working part-time from Idaho close to the end of September. She worked full-time from Idaho Oct. 15 and came to Steamboat in the first week of November.
The CASA program is written into the Colorado Revised Statutes. CASA volunteers work with children in abuse or neglect cases. The volunteers provide a system of emotional and mental support for children.
In 2013, in Colorado’s 14th District, 105 new substantiated children were victims of abuse or neglect and there were 109 the year before. Twenty-one children also were removed from their homes in the same year. CASA helps children during the stressful times created by these situations.
A judge appoints a CASA volunteer to cases, and then CASA program coordinators decide which volunteer best matches with the case or child.
Fegelein said the volunteers undergo 32 hours of training and continue to train during the duration of their volunteer period. She also said the training process is pretty tough.
“It takes a special kind of person to volunteer in these cases,” Fegelein said. “It’s hard stuff to read about and to handle.”
One of her main goals is increasing the number of volunteers working with CASA, especially in Moffat County. She also wants to increase visibility and awareness of CASA in the three-county community that the organization serves.
“I want to make sure people know who to call,” Fegelein said. If a person suspects neglect or abuse, they should call 911 if it’s an emergency. If it’s a non-emergency, people should call their local police department or local Department of Human Services.
CASA plans to have a fundraiser in Moffat County sometime soon, but is just in the beginning planning stages for it. They will have their annual “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 in Steamboat at the Strings Music Pavilion. Anyone interested in going to the fundraiser can find more information on CASA’s website.
With an above-average snowpack following a snowy winter, local firefighters and wildlife experts are expecting a mild fire season this year, especially at higher elevations.