Tuesday, Feb 9, 2021
By: John Riley
Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 08, 2021and last updated 6:59 PM, Feb 08, 2021
HELENA — CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties say they’ll be able to provide valentines day cards to every foster child in the greater Helena area thanks to the generosity of the community.
Executive Director Gerry Hill said the act of generosity actually stemmed from a misunderstanding.
The CASA program in Great Fall had the idea to encourage the community to provide Valentine’s Cards to children who are in foster care. MTN picked up the story which then inspired Helena resident Karleen Hanson to reach out to CASA of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties about doing the same thing.
“She called our office thinking it was a local program,” said Hill. “I said, ‘Well, let’s do it!’ and she and her mother really organized it.”
The call for people to hand make cards was put out on social media and before long the organization had thousands of Valentine’s Day cards from numerous individuals and organizations. It ended up being enough for about 8-10 cards for the approximately 200 children in foster care in the greater Helena and Townsend areas.
CASA of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties collected the cards for the State of Montana Child and Family Services who will then distribute them to children under their care.
A Valentine’s card may seem like a simple gesture, but Hill says it can have a profound impact on a child in foster care.
‘When kids can’t be with their parents it’s really tough,” said Hill. “I think sometimes they feel isolated and alone, like nobody cares… CASA has a slogan ‘change a child’s story’ and I believe it really does change a child’s story for them to know just how precious they are and how much they matter to our community.”
Each child in the care of the state and their family have a unique story.CASA Advocates are Community Volunteers who give their time, voice and commitment to a victim of child abuse to help ensure that their rights are protected so they will not get lost in an overcrowded child welfare system.
Hill says there is a need right now for twice the volunteers CASA of Lewis & Clark and Broadwater Counties currently has.
“Our whole program is based around volunteers,” Hill said. “We have about 50 CASAs and we need to keep growing that.”
No prior experience is needed and it takes around 30 hours of training for a person to be sworn in before the court as a CASA. From there they’ll be assigned to a child or children of a family to advocate for in court.