Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties' mission is to provide trained volunteers to advocate in court for the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children.
CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties (CASA Jeffco/Gilpin) was incorporated in July 2000 in response to the need to improve the representation of abused and neglected children in the 1st Judicial District of Colorado. Our first class of nine volunteers was sworn in February 2001 and 51 children were served that year. Today, we have over 190 active volunteers and have served over 2,600 child abuse victims.
Volunteerism is at the heart of our Program. In the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year, 189 active CASA volunteers contributed 18,681 hours to the 298 Dependency & Neglect cases, involving 413 children. The Board of Directors volunteer their stewardship and personal financial support to the Program.
CASA volunteers are not mentors; they advocate for the child's best interests in areas of health, education, foster placement and most importantly, permanency in a safe, loving home. Dedicated, highly trained volunteers are the very cornerstone of our Program. They are ordinary citizens who make an extraordinary commitment to fill a key role in breaking the cycle of child abuse-one child at a time. Volunteers strive to ensure that children in protective custody receive the necessary services for their physical, emotional and educational well-being and safety for the near and long term. Volunteer applicants undergo a rigorous screening and interview process before being accepted into the Program. They must successfully pass a criminal background investigation. They must complete 30+ hours of intensive training led by CASA staff and local experts in the fields of court proceedings, child development, dynamics of child abuse, substance abuse, and sensitivity to ethnic and cultural differences. Annually, volunteers must also complete 12 hours of continuing education to improve their skills and effectiveness.
It is at the discretion of the Court and by Court Order that a specially trained CASA volunteer advocates on behalf of a child or sibling group in a case of abuse and neglect. Case workers and guardian ad litem attorneys are charged with providing abused and neglected children with temporary protection. These professionals have tremendous caseloads and struggle to devote sufficient time to each child to ensure that all their needs are being met. By contrast, the CASA volunteer is typically appointed to one case at a time and handles that case to its successful conclusion-when the children are in a safe, stable, nurturing and permanent home and the court's jurisdiction is terminated. The volunteer becomes well acquainted with the child's needs; they submit regular, formal reports directly to the presiding judge, appear at all court hearing and monitor court-ordered treatment and placement plans. They frequently have contact with parents and independently report on their participation and progress related to efforts to satisfy the requirements for family reunification. While his or her investigation is an independent one, the CASA volunteer partners with and often serves as a valuable resource to case workers, other professionals and the Court.
District Court Judge Ann Gail Meinster states: "I have the privilege of working with many CASA volunteers. CASA Jeffco/Gilpin is an amazing organization that performs a critical community service for the most vulnerable children in the 1st Judicial District. CASA volunteers partner with other professionals working on cases. They provide a service that supplements the work of Guardians ad litem and caseworkers. They provide accurate, thoughtful and independent reporting to other parties to the case and the Court. CASA volunteers can sometimes be the one person who sees safety issues that are missed by others. I find the Program and its volunteers to be invaluable. My wish is to assign a CASA volunteer to every case of child abuse."