CASA Advocates recognized
POLSON — On June 7, Dick and Carol Banghart, residents of Polson, were recognized as Montana’s 2018 CASA Advocates of the Year at the recent 2018 Montana Child Abuse and Neglect Conference. They have served the CASA program in Lake County for more than 14 years. In the past year alone, they logged over 500 volunteer hours, 70 hours of continuing education, and 7,343 miles of travel to visit abused and neglected children who have been placed far from home. District Court Judge Kim Christopher supported the Bangharts' nomination, stating, “They have been here since the beginning and still continue to be part of the backbone of our program.“
Child abuse and neglect is a continued concern in Lake County. “Every child deserves the support of a caring, consistent, trained adult to help them find a safe, loving home where they can heal and thrive,” says CASA Executive Director Ann Marie McNeel. “CASA advocates are a constant for children in their times of chaos.”
Currently, there are more than 65 children in Lake County who are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, and by no fault of their own. “Without intervention, the odds are stacked against these children,” says McNeel. Most abuse and neglect cases are due to the parents’ use of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence or mental health issues. Studies show that children with a CASA advocate receive more services that are critical to their own well-being and are four times more likely to find a safe, permanent home.
CASA of Lake & Sanders Counties is a member of the National CASA Association, a nationwide network of programs in nearly 1,000 local communities throughout the country. There are 15 local CASA programs in Montana, including a new tribal program serving the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.