BOISE, Idaho — In a sense, court-appointed special advocates are the "eyes and ears" of the judge-- and they're people just like me and you. But currently, one expert says there are not enough court-appointed volunteers to fill these positions that help protect Idaho children living in danger.
"The children that our volunteers help represent in court-- they come from broken bones," said Jaime Hansen, Executive Director, Family Advocates.
In just the four Idaho counties Hansen's nonprofit, Family Advocates, helps serve Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 809 child victims of neglect or abuse in those counties last year.
"Many of us don't have to experience that kind of world on a daily basis. How fortunate are we. But, there a lot of kids out there that aren't fortunate," said Hansen.
Hansen can recall one child whose life a generous volunteer helped save.
"At six weeks old he, um, experienced violence from his father and his femur was broken," said Hansen.
A Guardian ad Litem-- or in other words-- a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) protected his best interests in court, and the child's parental rights were terminated, according to Hansen.
"Which meant that he needed to find an adopted family, and so he found a wonderful family and the Guardian ad Litem was able to be present for the adoption which is always the best possible outcome," said Hansen.
Here in the fourth judicial district-- which includes the Treasure Valley-- we have 152 volunteer Guardians ad Litem, said Hansen. She said the program needs "more like 300."
"Ee have had to withdraw from cases because we don't have the legal representation needed for that case," said Hansen.
And while advocating for child victims of abuse or neglect may not be the easiest volunteer work...
"All kids want to go back to their parents, regardless of whatever they experienced... you're not getting hugs, you're not getting accolades from these kids."
She says what makes it worth it in the end is helping shape a better future for endangered kids.
If you'd like to donate your time or money, visit familyadvocates.org to learn more. Hansen also recommends reaching out to your legislators about the importance of addressing these children's needs.