Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

New CASA sworn in to advocate for children in foster care


March 29, 2019

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Christina Rivera, from left and Barbara Fell receive CASA binders and pins from Chamene Plum after being sworn in Thursday at the Hill County Courthouse in Havre.

A new group of volunteers was sworn in to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates to help children in the area who suffer from abuse or neglect.

"It's entirely a program that is overwhelmed, so you guys stepping into this role is immensely important to the court," state District Judge Kaydee SnipesRuiz said before swearing in the volunteers in her courtroom Thursday. "... So I'm really excited to have you guys join me in my courtroom in the next couple of weeks."

She added that, with National Child Abuse Prevention Month starting Monday, the timing of her swearing in her first CASAs seems perfectly appropriate.

The new volunteers sworn in Thursday are Christina Rivera, Barbara Fell, Kacie Mack and Monica Garrahan.

Montana State University Hill County Extension Agent Jasmine Carbajal - who serves as president of CASA of Hill County's board of directors - also completed the required 30 hours of pre-service training but could not attend the swearing in. She was working at the Extension-sponsored Health in the Hi-Line event which also started at 4 p.m.

Joining the new volunteers for the swearing in were CASAs Kathy Lynch, Ross O'Neil and Mackenzie Zubatch and board members Barb Slonaker and Judy Adams.

CASA of Hill County Executive Director Chamene Plum said the five new volunteers bring the total to 20, possibly the most it has had since it started in 2006.

But with some 50 children in the system, more volunteers are needed, she added.

"My goal is to have my volunteers waiting for kids instead of the other way around," Plum said.

She said the volunteers are assigned by the court to work with children who have been removed from families due to abuse or neglect.

"Through no fault of their own they are placed in foster care or with family members," Plum said.

The volunteers meet with the child at least once per month, investigate issues and report to the judge. The volunteer also attends any court hearing involving the child.

"The CASA is the one person in the court to speak just on behalf of the child," Plum said.

"I hear all the crazy news stories, the stories on Facebook," Mack said. "I just want to help those kids, even if it's just put a smile on their face."

Fell said she wants to help those children have a voice in the system.

"To let them know they're not alone," she said.

Garrahan said she also has always wanted to work with people who don't have a voice in the system.

"Now that I am here, it's a perfect fit," she added.

Plum said the program requires 30 hours of preservice training, done under the national CASA association curriculum over six weeks.

The advocates also must undergo six hours of continuing training each year, with CASA of Hill County holding two-hour training sessions the third Monday of each month.

She added that six of the Hill County CASAs are attending the Child Abuse and Neglect Conference scheduled in Helena next month, which probably will fulfill their 12-hour requirement.

The preservice training is usually held in the spring and fall, although Plum could start another session if enough people are interested in volunteering - she wants to have at least five before she starts training, Plum said.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Twelfth Judicial District Judge Kaydee Snipes-Ruiz swears in four new members of CASA Thursday at the Hill County Courthouse in Havre. This was Snipes-Ruiz's first time swearing-in anybody as 12th District Judge.

The work can be stressful, and sometimes the volunteers take some time out between cases, she said.

"Not as stressful as what the kiddos go through," she added.

CASA of Hill County will kick off National Child Abuse Prevention Month Monday by planting blue-and-silver pinwheels, the symbol of child abuse prevention, around town.

CASA is also holding a Pizza Hut fundraiser Thursday, April 11. When anyone paying for a dine-in or carry-out purchase at the Havre restaurant that day says they are donating to CASA, 20 percent of the purchase price will go to the fundraiser.

For more information about CASA, people can contact Plum at [email protected] or 265-6743, ext. 1135.


Online: CASA of Hill County Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CASAofHillCounty/

CASA of Hill County website: http://www.casaofhillcounty.org/

National CASA Association website: https://casaforchildren.org/.


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