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Helenans Honored by CASA of Montana

Monday, May 16, 2016

Every year, CASA of Montana recognizes outstanding people who have consistently demonstrated a special level of dedication to the CASA programs and the care and protection of abused and neglected children. Brent Lashinski, CPS Supervisor, Child & Family Services Division, Helena, Montana has been selected to receive the CASA Child Protection Specialist of the Year Award. Also, Hon. James P. Reynolds, District Court Judge, 1st Judicial Department, Helena has been selected as the CASA Judge of the Year. 

CASA Child Protection Specialist of the Year Award

Brent Lashinski, CPS Supervisor, Child & Family Services Division, Helena, Montana, has been selected to receive the CASA Child Protection Specialist of the Year Award.  Nominated by the staff of CASA of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties and its CASA advocates, Brent is described as possessing a high level of professionalism, being a team player, appreciative and respectful of the role of the CASA advocate and above all, being completely focused on the children and their families.

Brent has been a CPS Supervisor for 2 years, preceded by 3 years as a CPS worker and before that 5-1/2 years working in Central Intake taking hotline reports.  Prior to working for CFSD, Brent was a counselor at Intermountain Children’s Home in Helena.  His reputation is that of an avid advocate for children and for the work and role of the CASA advocate.

In his interactions with CASA advocates as a CPS worker, Brent was always quick to respond to emails and phone calls.  He always knew what was happening on his cases.  Whether he agreed with the CASA advocate or not, Brent was consistent in being professional and made every effort to act in the best interests of his clients.  Brent looked for solutions that best fit his families.  He is very direct, and sometimes stern, but he is always respectful of the families especially the clients who are serious about getting their children returned to them.

As a supervisor, Brent knows each CPS worker under his supervision and is familiar with all of their cases.  He is responsive to the CASA advocates and other members of the team in each case.  Brent easily steps in to give guidance and to brainstorm when that is needed.  Despite his many responsibilities, Brent is always a helping hand when someone needs one. 

CASA advocates enjoy working cases when Brent is involved because they know there will be a solution to the case that is best for the children.  This is Brent’s focus and he keeps this the focus of any team of people working with him.  He understands the protocols and positions of the Department, thinks creatively and supports positive and safe outcomes for the children who are in his care.  Brent has gained the respect of everybody who works with him.

Brent resides in Helena with his wife and two boys, ages 12 and 19, and two dogs.  In his free time, Brent enjoys family activities and the avid pursuit of chess and poker.

CASA Judge of the Year

Hon. James P. Reynolds, District Court Judge, 1st Judicial Department, Helena has been selected as the CASA Judge of the Year.  Judge Reynolds has served as a District Court Judge since January 2011.   Known for his soft spoken style, compassion for families and children, and encouragement to parents, Judge Reynolds instills the seriousness of dependent-neglect cases and ultimately the protection of children.  Judge Reynolds’ leadership is significant as evidenced by his frequent acknowledgment of the importance of the role and responsibility of the CASA advocate in a case.  He expects active input by the CASA advocate into decisions around the selection of permanent placements, transition time frames and plans, appropriate parental contact and placing the child’s needs first.  He listens with earnest contemplation to the opinion and reports of the CASA advocates. The child’s voice is heard in Judge Reynold’s courtroom.

Judge Reynolds has taken a major leadership role in supporting CASA outside the courtroom.  He takes an active role in the orientation program for new CASA advocates and he supports the annual CASA of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties luncheon and fundraiser dinner.  His strong leadership continues by his direct involvement in the local dependent-neglect work group:   monthly meetings with representatives from Child and Family Services, the County Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the local CASA program office and as appropriate, other community members invited to participate in the meetings. 

Part of Judge Reynold’s caring, but fair philosophy is demonstrated by his hard work to ensure that parent’s rights are respected.  He takes time to be sure the parents are informed during the proceedings and understand what is happening in the case.  He carefully wades into territory that may cause emotional distress or anger making a difficult situation as easy as possible for the parents. 

Judge Reynolds never takes his eye off of the best interests of the children whose parents come to his courtroom.  With clarity, Judge Reynolds states that he wants, needs and expects the CASA advocates to provide him with their community wisdom as to what is in the best interests of the child.  He often tells the CASA advocates that “you are the eyes and ears in the community and I trust you will ask the questions that need to be asked and say the things that need to be said, but are at times difficult.”

Long time Helena residents (42 years), Judge Reynolds and his wife, Niki Wheatry, have 2 children, a son in southern California and a daughter in upstate New York, and 2 grandchildren.  Judge Reynolds enjoys golf and reading.

(From CASA of Montana Presentation at the CAN Conference 2016)

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