Missoula —CASA of Missoula’s “Light of Hope” week that raises awareness about the need for child advocates in the court system culminated on Friday with luminaries and foster children’s stories displayed on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn.
The nonprofit organization also hosted a live, virtual speech from their Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of the Year Pam Copley and Executive Director Scott Appel.
CASA of Missoula shared six billboards on the courthouse lawn with statistics of the most common causes for a child entering foster care in Missoula and Mineral County in 2021. CASA followed each statistic with a specific story of a child they serve affected by that statistic.
For instance, one board read that 69% of children entering foster care in Missoula and Mineral County last year had a parent struggling with substance use disorder.
The Light of Hope week of events began Jan. 27 with the video announcement that Missoula resident Pam Copley was being honored as CASA of Missoula’s CASA of the Year.
The video featured Copley and two children from a case she counts among her success stories as a CASA. Copley has been a CASA since 2018. She has served eight children in that time.
Although Light of Hope ended Friday, CASA staff says there is still time to give. So far, CASA of Missoula has raised $77,377 of their $85,000 goal for Light of Hope. Community members can still give at https://LightofHope2022.GiveSmart.com
CASA of Missoula volunteers spent 4,000 hours in 2021 advocating for 245 children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Of those children, 92 have found a safe, permanent home with the help of a CASA volunteer.
The number of new CASAs volunteers has dropped since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Prior to the pandemic, CASA of Missoula training classes were reaching a maximum of 35 volunteers per class, but the most recent training class in the fall graduated only 10 volunteers.
CASA of Missoula is currently accepting applicants for the spring CASA training running from March 29 until April 28 via Zoom. For more information about CASA of Missoula and to volunteer, visit casamissoula.org.