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New CASA advocates are sworn in. Top row: Laurie Balmuth, Vicki Brennan; second row: Elise Gettleman, Susan Sorensen, Lisa Farrell; third row: Julie Tucker, Stephanie Bowen, Rachel Harvey; bottom row: Judge Janet Stauffer. 

Columbia Gorge CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program has introduced its newest child advocates: Laurie Balmuth, Stephanie Bowen, Vicki Brennan, Lisa Farrell, Elise Gettleman, Rachel Harvey, Susan Sorensen, and Julie Tucker, all of Hood River County. 

After completing more than 30 hours of professional training via Zoom, the group was sworn into duty (also via Zoom) by the Honorable Janet L. Stauffer on Nov. 9. 

Stauffer welcomed the newest advocates and subsequently described some of her experiences as a CASA. She also listed many of the attributes she feels CASAs bring to the Court and pertinent information concerning a child CASAs bring to the Court’s attention, according to Susan Baldwin, volunteer manager.  

Appointed and empowered directly by the courts, CASA volunteers advocate for a child’s best interest by providing critical information to judges about the child’s needs and well-being to help the judge make the most well-informed decision. The CASA model was created more than 40 years ago and CASA programs have established themselves and their volunteers as trusted partners with the courts and child welfare professionals.

On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States, served by more than 93,000 dedicated CASA volunteers. On average, nationally, children remain in state care for nearly two years and six percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.  Among these children, around 200 are available for adoption and waiting for adoptive families in Oregon, according to AdoptUSKids.

Columbia Gorge CASA serves children in Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties. 

Its mission is to advocate for the needs and well-being of children in foster care through professionally trained and supported community volunteers. 

New advocate training sessions will begin in February 2021. If you are interested in learning more about the CASA program, contact Michelle Mayfield, training coordinator, or Susan Baldwin, volunteer manager, at 541-386-3468, or www.gorgecasa.org.

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