Idaho's CASA program is in dire straits because of lack of funding and volunteers to help kids

Idaho's CASA program needs money and volunteers

    A program designed to protect children in Idaho's court system is in trouble.
    The state supreme court set up the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, but it's turned into an unfunded mandate.
    And the group says the state and community need to step up to protect those who cannot.
The sound of a child in trouble, is always chilling.
Because of juvenile privacy concerns, the identities of children must be protected and that's part of the problem.

"It's easy to ignore the problem because it's confidential," says Jaime Hansen, director of Family Advocates.

In many cases, the kids are living in squalor, the technical term they use is an extreme dirty home. But that's a understatement.

"Often times these kids are crawling around on floors with so much trash and feces you don't know if it's linoleum or carpet underneath," says Hansen

Physical abuse, drug abuse, custody issues, court costs, all things that can take precedence over the child, which is why the court system set up CASA.

"To make sure the voice of the child is heard in court and to find out where is the best placement for the child in the case," says Hansen.

Volunteers generally act as that voice. But too often, the lack of volunteers and money lets kids fall through the cracks especially in the fourth district which includes the Treasure Valley.

"40 percent had no representation at all." says Hansen, "Not only were we not notified they were in custody and in child protection act proceedings, but there was no record of their existence at all."

The state set up this system in 1982 to help kids...But didn't put the money behind the legislation.

A recent office of performance evaluation study in Idaho shows more than 33 hundred kids were involved in child protection cases in 2017. Statewide 32 percent had no representation at all, despite the fact that it could threaten federal funding for Child Protection Services. So, what does CASA need?

"We need the community to step up and take care of their own," says Hansen,  "We need money and people and volunteers. We need 166 ad litem in the fourth district and 74 pro bono attorney's to meet the need today."

Success stories of children with volunteer ad litems are many.  And stories of those who fall through the cracks ending up in the correction system are far too high. 

    The CASA program is always looking for volunteer guardian ad litems and there are regular training courses.
    To learn more go to familyadvocates.org.
 

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