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Judges authorize CASA to serve abused, neglected children

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POLSON – On Jan. 8, Judge Kim Christopher met with board members with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lake and Sanders counties to authorize the continued services of volunteer advocates to work on behalf of children who have been abused and neglected.

As required by the National CASA Association, CASA of Lake and Sanders counties must renew a memorandum of understanding with the judges of the 20th Judicial District Court every four years. The memorandum of understanding outlines the process in which the judges grant CASA volunteer advocates the authority to serve as “guardians ad litem” on cases where children are removed from the home or in imminent risk of being removed from the home due to abuse and neglect.

CASA advocates often are referred to as the eyes and ears of the court. Judge Christopher signed the first memorandum of understanding in 2004 after she and her judicial assistant spent more than a year designing the local CASA program in Lake County. Ten years later, in 2014, a citizen-advisory committee from Sanders County worked with CASA’s executive director, Ann Marie McNeel, to successfully expand CASA resources into Sanders County.

Through the recent renewal of the memorandum of understanding, CASA continues to train and support effective volunteer advocacy for every victim of child abuse and neglect in the 20th Judicial District Court system. The number of volunteer advocates in Lake and Sanders counties is at an all-time high and over half of them have served for more than three years.

“Our seasoned advocates are better able to deal with the difficult cases and the demands facing our local CPS offices; they mentor our new advocates,” McNeel explained. “Plus, they bring a broad range of experiences and expertise to the table.”

CASA of Lake and Sanders counties served over 100 abused and neglected children in 2018.

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