In Spokane County, there are more than 1,000 children and youth currently living in foster care through Child Protective Service (CPS). These children living in foster care or relative placement commonly suffer from depression, behavior disturbances, poor health, learning delays, confusion, fear, and loneliness. CASA Partners helps support the lives of these neglected children in Spokane Country and children who are at risk of entering the system.
CASA Partners is a volunteer-led 501 (c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1977. They started with a three-year $30,000 grant from the Junior League of Spokane and continue to grow with the generous support of many community organizations, businesses, and individual donors.
A "CASA" is a court appointed special advocate. CASAs are volunteers who have been through the training of the CASA Program. CASAs advocate for abused and neglected children in family court. After the initial training of 30 hours, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the Court, which gives them the legal authority to conduct research on a child's situation and submit to the court reports and their recommendations for a child's welfare. CASAs work strictly as volunteers and deal with abuse, neglect, and abandonment cases referred to them by Child Protective Services.
CASA Partners currently sponsors four direct service projects: My Bag, My School Bag, Bee Kind Garden, and Needs From The Heart.
Children who are placed in foster care often arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs. Through My Bag, CASA Partners provides these children with an age-appropriate duffel bag or backpack. Each bag contains a handmade quilt or afghan, clothes, toiletries, a stuffed toy, and books to give the child solace. No longer are the children in Spokane County's foster care system called the "garbage bag kids," a term applied when personal belongings were arrived in black plastic garbage bags. Since its beginning in April of 1998, My Bag has provided more than 17,000 bags filled with love, dignity, and comfort for these children.
My School Bag provides necessities for the start of school for over 200 children each year. The social workers provide sizes for each child and a monumental shopping frenzy begins. Through My School Bag, each child receives a new backpack filled with new clothes and shoes for the first day of school.
Bee Kind Garden project is a therapeutic program designed to teach gentleness, kindness, and empathy to children removed from violent homes. Each child is matched with a trained volunteer who gives his or her undivided attention to the child while together they explore arts and crafts, nurture plants, and interact with child-friendly animals. Especially important is the fact that Bee Kind Garden is a safe place 'to be a child'.
Over the years, Needs from the Heart has shopped for and provided athletic equipment, memberships for swimming lessons, strollers, cribs, school clothing, beds, dressers, mattresses, tricycles, toys, yearbooks. . . all to let a child experience the good parts of being a child and to help those who are helping the children. These are items or activities that foster parents and social workers may be unable to provide, but that Needs from the Heart can fulfill.
Lacie Gimeno began her involvement with Casa Partners a few years back and for a time being was a board member with the organization. She continues to support their efforts and be an advocate for the many ways people can get involved.
"I felt it was a way to give back to the community by helping those whom barely have control of their situation," Gimeno said.
For more information about CASA Partners, visit casapartners.org or call 509-462-2272.
Join us in celebrating our Doers of Good by getting involved in one of the programs we will spotlight over the next several months.