Courage For Children Awarded To Casas

Advertisement

We will call her "Caroline," and although she is not real, her story is a composite of many true stories.

The 5-year-old child was taken into temporary physical custody by Child Protective Services. Police found Caroline in a home with her mother during a drug raid. Police arrested the mother. CPS placed Caroline in foster care because no other relatives could take her.

photo

Katrisha Stuler is the new Court-Appointed Special Advocate coordinator for the program in Northern Gila County.

"Can you imagine how scary this must have been for this little girl?" Katrisha Stuler asked those who attended her recent presentation at the Senior Center. Stuler has coordinated the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Payson since July.

Children in the midst of crisis caused by the adults in their life have special people on their side who speak for them in court.

The court appoints CASA volunteers to advocate solely for the children.

On September 21, the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents gave Governor Janet Napolitano's Courage for Children award to the staff and volunteers of Arizona's CASA program.

A group or individual who leads systematic change that improves services for children in Arizona through legislative, political or social action may earn the annual award.

"CASAs work closely with foster and potential adoptive parents to ensure the best possible outcomes for these (abused and neglected) children," Bonnie Marcus, program manager for Arizona CASAs said.

Currently there are 82 children in Gila County in foster homes, relative placements and group homes.

Most of those children need a CASA.

There are currently six qualified CASAs in Globe, 20 in Payson.

Payson CASAs are currently serving 13 children, from a week-old baby to an 11-year-old child. There are another 16 in need, some single and some part of a sibling group.

Some CASA volunteers serve in the office, others are on hiatus. This is the reason for the 20-13 difference.

"Even one child that needs a CASA shouldn't have to go without one. The CASA role is so vital," Stuler said.

The initial interview process for a CASA takes a couple of hours, but this lengthy interview gives both applicant and Stuler a chance to decide if the volunteer match is right.

Turnaround time for the background and fingerprint checks is approximately 8 weeks.

Stuler's dream would be to have more volunteers than she needs, so that when a case comes in, she could immediately pair a screened, trained CASA with the children.

"Globe desperately needs CASAs," Globe CASA coordinator Cecelia Gonzales said, citing the 63 children that make up 38 cases.

"Yes, it can be a heartbreaking job, but the success keep me going," Stuler said.

She became coordinator of the Payson office in July and worked with the CASA program in Maricopa County in 1999 and 2000. Her post, before rejoining CASA, was as the academy project director for the Arizona Victim's Coalition.

"CASA volunteers bring such incredible passion and energy that every day, they re-energize me to help the kids," Stuler said.

The Arizona Supreme Court administers the CASA program in all 15 counties. Because it is under the auspices of the courts, only a nonprofit entity, such as the Arizona Council for CASA Inc., active in Pinal and Maricopa counties, may solicit funds.

"If a civic group wanted to donate money, there is no place to donate it here," Stuler said.

However, she said CASA does have several outside resources they can tap if a child in the program wants, for example, a bicycle or karate lessons.

People who are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer or have questions can contact Stuler at (928) 474-7145 or log onto www.azcasa.org.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.