CASA courtroom caseloads sky-rocket brought on by tough economic times

LEWISTON, ID - Court appointed special advocates in the Lewis-Clark Valley have the difficult but rewarding task of advocating for children in the court room.

KLEW News learns why CASA may have to turn children away, if numbers continue to rise at the rate they currently are.

Court Appointed Special Services Executive Director Gay Lewis doesn't know why case load numbers for her volunteers have sky-rocketed this year. She can only speculate it's because of added hardships brought on by tough economic times.

"Those are stressors that go out on the family," said Lewis. "And that comes out in one way or another. And unfortunately sometimes I think that's abuse and neglect."

"Often a drug or alcohol dependency abuse and a child ends up being neglected perhaps in that situation," said CASA Volunteer Mary Lou Franzese.

Just in the last year, Lewis said her volunteers have taken on about 40 more children to represent in the court room.

"I see that as an ongoing pressure for being a volunteer and wanting to a really good job on behalf of each child," said Franzese.

"We hope not to and we may have to turn some children away and that would be very hard to do," said Lewis.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said ever since CASA has taken the place of court appointed attorneys for children in dependency cases, he's seen a substantial difference for the kid's rights. If a child is removed from their family because of neglect issues for example, the CASA volunteer can be a voice for the child in court.

"CASA volunteers personally meet with the children," said Nichols. "And they actually talk to the foster parents. They go to the schools. They get very involved in the process and they relate that back to the court. And I think that's an important part."

"It doesn't take a masters degree," said Lewis. "It takes a warm heart and caring for children."

"I've been very impressed with the work they do," said Nichols. "I think they do an excellent job creating the connection between the child and the court."

There are a number of ways to help CASA. You can volunteer as an advocate, donate to their non-profit organization or simply get the word out by sharing their purpose.

If you'd like more information on how to get involved, head to our Facebook page where we've posted a link to their site.