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CASA of Missoula adorns courthouse lawn for virtual Light of Hope

Missoula —CASA of Missoula’s “Light of Hope” week, which aimed to raise awareness about the need for child advocates in the court system, ended on Friday with luminaries and foster children’s stories placed on the Missoula County Courthouse yard.

Pam Copley, the nonprofit organization’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of the Year, and Executive Director Scott Appel delivered live, virtual speeches.

CASA of Missoula shared six billboards on the courthouse grounds in 2021 with facts on the most prevalent reasons for a child entering foster care in Missoula and Mineral County. CASA accompanied each statistic with a narrative of a kid they serve who was touched by that statistic.

According to one board, 69 percent of children entering foster care in Missoula and Mineral County last year had a parent who struggled with drug abuse.

The Light of Hope week of festivities kicked off on Jan. 27 with a video announcement that Missoula resident Pam Copley had been named CASA of Missoula’s CASA of the Year. Copley and two children from a situation she considers one of her success stories as a CASA were included in the film. Copley has worked as a CASA since 2018. In that time, she has served eight children.

Although Light of Hope came to a close on Friday, CASA employees say there is still time to donate. CASA of Missoula has so far raised $77,377 of the $85,000 target for Light of Hope.

CASA of Missoula volunteers spent 4,000 hours advocating for 245 children who had been abused or neglected in 2021. With the assistance of a CASA volunteer, 92 of those children have found a secure, permanent home.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of new CASAs volunteers has decreased. Prior to the pandemic, CASA of Missoula training courses averaged 35 volunteers, while the most recent training class in the autumn graduated just 10 volunteers.

CASA of Missoula is now taking applications through Zoom for the spring CASA training, which will take place from March 29 to April 28.

Visit casamissoula.org for more information and to volunteer with CASA of Missoula.