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CASA enjoys high volunteer numbers

NICOLE FORMOSA
Special to the DailySeven new volunteers have joined CACA to help neglected or abused children along Colorado's Western Slope find permanent, healthy homes.
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BRECKENRIDGE – Seven new volunteers have joined the effort to help neglected or abused children along Colorado’s Western Slope find a permanent, healthy home.The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Continental Divide swore in the new volunteers last week, bumping up its total number of advocates to 25, the most the organization has ever had, according to executive director Tiffany Grosjean.”It’s hard, emotionally draining work. We lose people, or people move away, or they just need a break. We always need fresh blood,” said Grosjean.Here’s how the process works:Once a child is taken out of the home, he or she is assigned a social worker and an attorney, who are often working on several cases at once.

The advocate focuses on only one child at a time, and works to ensure nothing is overlooked in the case. The volunteer is involved in all aspects of the case and works in conjunction with the social worker and attorney to move the case through the court system as fast as possible.”The goal is to have the child in a permanent home within a year and 90 percent of the time, we can achieve that goal,” said Grosjean. Cheryl Thompson moved to Frisco four years ago, following a successful 15-year career as a prosecutor in Miami and Chicago.She found herself with some free time on her hands and decided to utilize her comfort in the courtroom by becoming a CASA.”What I have to give is time and the time you give is flexible. I travel a lot, so I can focus on the case when I’m home, then I can leave for a week and not feel bad about it,” said Thompson.

Her current endeavor is a case involving a five-year-old girl, who’s been taken out of her home because of her parents’ substance abuse problems.”In my case, the mother is an alcoholic and the father is addicted to marijuana and they’re supposed to be attending these classes once a week, but they’re young and they’re not doing what is necessary to get their child back,” explained Thompson.Grosjean stressed that reunification with the parents is usually what’s best for the child and is generally the goal volunteers strive to meet. “Everybody’s thrilled when the parents do the work to get the kids back and take the work seriously,” said Grosjean. If that doesn’t happen, different options exist, such as placing the children with grandparents or other family members, with advocates often doing the research to track everybody down, said Grosjean.

Along with Thompson, the new batch of volunteers includes three other Summit County residents, Vera Bloch, Judy Sawyer and Kate Kramer and three Eagle County residents.Everyone completed 30 hours of training over five days by human services caseworkers, mental health therapists, guardian attorneys and several local nonprofit organizations.CASA depends heavily on volunteers as it has only two paid employees and usually takes on people from all walks of life, as long as they can commit to three to five hours per week. The organization is funded solely through donations and grants.CASA of the Continental Divide covers the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Summit, Clear, Lake and Eagle counties. Last year, it helped 47 children find homes and, currently, has a caseload of 32 kids.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com


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