Editor's note: This occasional series profiles local volunteers for CASA of the Continental Divide.
EAGLE COUNTY - CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. The mission is to advocate in court for the best interest of children who are victims of abuse and neglect, in order to find them safe and permanent homes as soon as possible. CASA is a national organization with a local branch serving the 5th Judicial District of Colorado including Eagle, Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties.
CASA of the Continental Divide trains community members to advocate for children in abuse and neglect cases. These trained volunteers are appointed by the judge to look out for the best interest of these children.
CASA of the Continental Divide has volunteers ranging from 21 to 90 years old. These volunteers come from all walks of life. Lois Bruce is one of the valued CASA volunteers in Eagle County. This is what she has to say about the experience:
What made you decide to become a CASA volunteer?
A friend in Miami told me about CASA in 1990 and I was living in Los Angeles at the time doing lots of charity fundraising but not interacting directly with those in need. In a year I moved to the San Jose, Calif., area and decided to go through CASA training. I was now going to work with and help a child get to a permanent home. No more charity lunches for me! I was thrilled with what I learned at training and especially with my first case, a 7-year-old girl with attachment disorder - and more.
I have worked with 25 children from the ages of 6 months and a near vegetable to a 16-year-old until they aged out of the system. I moved with my then-husband a lot, so I worked in California, Connecticut, Miami, New York and now in Colorado.
I would encourage others to become CASAs because it is so fulfilling to make a real difference in a child's life. It is helpful and so worthwhile to get to know the child, get to know what their specific needs are, what their desires are and to be a part of their life so they aren't forgotten. Children who have a CASA have a strong advocate in their life to help secure a permanent home for them so they can live a safer, more enriching and loving life. With all the volunteer work that I have done over the years, being a CASA is the most interesting, challenging and rewarding volunteer job I've ever had.
As a CASA, I have the most impact after I have researched the case, checked the facts and then reported to the professionals and the judge what I believe is in the best interest of my child. My CASA reports, and the reports of other CASAs, are read carefully by the professionals and the judge, and they take CASA's recommendations most seriously. Frequently, CASA's reports to the court have been the most information a judge has in order to make a well informed decision for the child's best interest. I also speak for the child in court, telling the judge what the child wants. What the child wants may not be possible, but it becomes empowering to a child to have a say in their life even at a young age.
When I am not doing my CASA work, I am skiing, snowshoeing, skiing with my grandson, hiking, bicycling, golfing and participating in a lot of Vail Club 50 fun events. I have climbed several 14ers, rafted down the Grand Canyon and biked the White Rim in Canyonlands for five days and four nights. I also volunteer at the Vilar Performing Arts Center and for the Birds of Prey race in the winter. In summer, I attend Bravo and the dance festival.
The next CASA Volunteer Training will begin Saturday. Go to mtncasa.org or call 970-513-9390 for more information.