By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

New Advocates Step In to Improve Lives


Michelle Bigelbach/For the Courier

New CASA appointees Carol Buchheit (L) and Aimee Kirkland (R) pose with Judge Yvonne Laird on March 21.

Carol Buchheit and Aimee Kirkland were sworn in March 21 by the Honorable Yvonne Laird to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) in the Seventeenth Judicial District Court. Kirkland and Buchheit have successfully completed CASA's pre-service training course, gaining a foundation of knowledge needed to advocate for abused and neglected children. Upon being sworn in, they will be assigned to serve abused children in Valley County, directly impacting their lives.

Even with the addition of Buchheit and Kirkland, CASA advocates are still needed in Valley County. The number of CASAs available are low compared to the number of children in the community who need their voices heard. With these additions, headway has been made, however more people like Kirkland and Buchheit are needed.

According to Executive Director of CASA Mark Douglass, the CASA's role is to investigate, facilitate, advocate, and monitor. A CASA gets to know a child one-on-one, meeting the child at least once a month. By focusing on one family at a time, a CASA can provide information about a child's specific situation which is otherwise often missing in the courtroom.

A CASA meets with parents, fosters, relatives, teachers, social workers, therapists, and doctors, serving as a watchdog to ensure their child doesn't "slip through the cracks" of a too-often-overburdened child welfare system. The CASA helps improve communication among professionals and between professionals and the family, as well as offering an independent point of view to seek out-of-the-box solutions. The goal is to improve outcomes for children and to break the generational cycle of abuse.

Anyone interested in become a CASA, a new pre-service class will begin in May. The 6-week FLEX course encompasses 30 total hours of training, with about half online and half in a classroom setting and meeting one evening each week. Events will also be hosted throughout the month of April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Any concerned citizen who has a heart to serve vulnerable children should contact Mark Douglass at [email protected] or 406-265-6743 ext. 1135 for more information. No previous training or experience is necessary.


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