The history of CASA of the Continental Divide (CASACD): After 20 years judging figure skating, Debby Webster, a Vail resident, wanted to have an impact of an entirely different group of children. She learned about CASA; discovered there was no CASA organization locally; and set out to create CASACD. Starting by obtaining the support of the presiding judge His Honorable Judge Terry Ruckriegle and then developing local support, Debby inaugurated CASA services in the 5th judicial district.
CASA of the Continental Divide had its first organizational meeting on June 5, 1998. Prior to that time, contact had been made with Colorado CASA, the state wide organization, and discussion had taken place with the Chief Judge of the 5th Judicial District, Terry Ruckriegle the Director of Social Services in Summit County Susan Gruber and the Director of Health and Human Services in Eagle County Kathleen Forinash. All of the contacts resulted in support for a CASA program in the district.
At the June 5th meeting all three of the district judges were in attendance along with representatives from Social Services, Human Services, attorneys, psychologists, school personnel, private social service agency personnel, and members of the business community. The group reached a consensus to move ahead with the organization of a CASA program in Summit and Eagle counties, with planned expansion into Lake and Clear Creek Counties as soon as the initial programs were established. Those four counties comprise the 5th Judicial District. An open steering committee of all interested parties was formed. A database of contacts was established. That list included board members, community contacts, members of the steering committee, those who had indicated an interest in becoming a CASA volunteer and anyone who requested information about the CASA program. CASA of the Continental Divide and Colorado CASA maintained regular contact with Colorado CASA through out the process to be sure that all policies and recommended practices were followed as they do to this day.
A Mission Statement for CASA of the Continental Divide was adopted on July 20, 1998. It was “CASA of the Continental Divide will advocate for the best interest of children by interfacing with agencies and families to ultimately ensure a safe, permanent home for every child.” A three person incorporated board of directors was formed and Articles of Incorporation were filed in late July of that year. Membership in the National CASA association was granted in August. Bylaws were adopted on November 30, 1998 and CASA of the Continental Divide was established as a 501c3 February 18, 1999.
Our first case was assigned in March 2000. In the first year and a half we provided services in Eagle and Summit counties. We began providing services in Clear Creek County in 2001 and in Lake County in January 2002.
Programs and Accomplishments
Child Advocacy: The heart of our program is serving children who are involved in a Dependency & Neglect (D&N) case. These children have been abused or neglected by their parents, and, nearly always, removed from their home. Each D&N case referred by a judge is assigned a CASA volunteer who makes a commitment to advocate for the child/ren for the duration of the case, for perhaps as long as twelve to eighteen months.
The job of a CASA volunteer is to:
1) Determine if an appropriate treatment plan has been created for the child, whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family, and whether the treatment plan is progressing in a timely manner.
2) Determine if it is in a child’s best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, or be freed for adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and remains active on the case until it is permanently resolved.
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer conducts an independent investigation that includes interviews with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school personnel, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child – historically and currently. The CASA volunteer has authorized access to all records relating to the child, parent, legal guardian, or other parties in interest, as the court deems necessary.
Approximately 80% of our cases are the result of parental substance abuse. We collaborate with the Departments of Human Services, Guardians ad Litem, and other professionals providing services to the child or family, such as Child Find, chemical dependency treatment, parenting training, schools, and counselors.
Parenting Class: While our primary focus is court advocacy for children, we also provide a monthly class, “Our Kids First,” for parents who are in the process of divorce. By offering this class CASACD strives to lessen the negative impact of divorce on the children and limit the related stress and conflict children frequently experience.
Who We Are
- 2 full-time
- 2 part-time
- Board and volunteers
- 9 board members
- 47 volunteers
- Last year our volunteers and board donated over 4, 770 hours of their time and drove approximately 40,725 miles on behalf of CASA.
- Members of Colorado CASA & National CASA Association
What We Do
- Provided court advocacy for abused and neglected children in the 5th Judicial District.
- In fiscal year 2014: our volunteers served 101 children from 59 families.
- Provided a court mandated course for divorcing parents.
- In fiscal year 2014: 28 adults attended; representing 51 children.
Some Recent Statistics
- We currently have 31 volunteers are appointed to a case. These volunteers work with 47 children from 34 families in the Fifth Judicial District.
- CASA’s goal is to be appointed for, and able to appoint volunteers to 100% of such cases throughout the district.
Where we do our work
- 5th Judicial District
- Eagle, Lake, Summit and Clear Creek Counties
- 3,069 square miles
- 4 Court Houses
- 4 Departments of Human Services
- The children we serve are living in Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek Counties, as well as Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and out of state