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Strengthening families month is a great opportunity to help a local child

April is Strengthening Families Month, a time to promote the safety and well-being of Montana’s kids. If you’ve been wondering what the blue pinwheels are around town, these are the symbols of this month and drawing attention to the issue of child abuse. Communities around the state and country put them up in April.

CASA of Hill County is also hosting a Kids Carnival on April 27th to wrap up Strengthening Families month and celebrate happy childhoods. We will have free games with prizes, free lunch, and door prizes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. Jude Parish Center. We will also be drawing for our “Staycation Raffle” at the close of the carnival.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. These programs are around the country, and we have 15 in Montana. CASA of Hill County serves the 12th Judicial District Court, which covers Hill, Liberty, and Chouteau counties.

If there is abuse or neglect of a child, a legal process begins. During this process, parents and other involved parties have legal representation — exclusively focused on their best interest — except for the child. CASA programs recruit and train community volunteers who represent the best interests of the child in abuse and neglected cases. CASAs are critical to ensuring that someone is looking out for these kids during incredibly difficult times.

In 2023, our CASA volunteers served 57 children, and we are so proud of their incredible work. Unfortunately, 64 kids went without a CASA. Even one child without a CASA is too many, but this many children working through the legal system without a CASA is heartbreaking.

We do our best to talk to people about joining our amazing group of volunteers. Many people want to help, but questions come up about a volunteer experience like this. Sometimes, people express concern that it will be too emotionally challenging to be involved with these cases or worry that they don’t know enough about the legal system. We want to take a minute to clarify things.

First, few of our volunteers are attorneys. Our volunteers come from all walks of life — retired teachers, moms, and full-time employees. Our team trains you and gives you the support you need to be the best advocate possible for the kids you serve.

We’d be lying if we said every case was sunshine and roses, but that doesn’t mean every case is hard. Some cases end in a happy reunification of a child and their parents. Some CASAs and their kiddos develop deep and lifelong bonds. Also, for the tough cases, these are the kids that need the most support. These kids need an adult who cares about them and looks out for them as their cases work through the courts. This could be you.

Being a CASA is an incredibly meaningful volunteer experience — one you won’t get anywhere else. Even though these kids are going through a lot, they are funny, and it is a joy to get to know them as individuals.

We hope you will attend our event on the 27th and talk to us about becoming a CASA. If you can’t make it, call us at 1-406-262-8435 to learn more. Dozens of kids in our area need an adult on their side.

All kids deserve to be happy and healthy. Together, we can protect the next generation of children and help those involved with the child welfare system to rewrite their stories.

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Chamene Plum is executive director of CASA of Hill County, Inc.

 

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