Children’s advocacy group arrives in Routt County |

Children’s advocacy group arrives in Routt County

Group is hosting coffee meeting for would-be volunteers Wednesday

Mike Lawrence

— A local school counselor is expanding her child advocacy efforts into the courtroom and seeking interested volunteers who, like her, want to help abused and neglected youths.

Valerie McCarthy, a part-time counselor at Strawberry Park Elementary School who has an extensive local history working with children, is the program manager for the Northwest Rocky Mountain Court Appointed Special Advocate program.

The regional arm of the national CASA program began in Grand County in late 2008, expanded to Moffat County in 2009, and then came to Steamboat Springs last year when McCarthy was hired in September. She manages the three-county program, which trains community volunteers to advocate in court for children who have been abused and neglected.

McCarthy is holding a meet­ing over coffee at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Spill The Beans on 13th Street to talk about the program with anyone who might be interested, especially potential volunteers or those who might like to serve on a community board of directors.

"Anyone can be a volunteer, but it's a pretty extensive training," McCarthy said Monday.

The initial training is 32 hours, she said. The commitment for volunteers can be 10 to 12 hours a month, but the service can be very gratifying. Volunteers work with one family at a time.

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"They stay with the family until the children are placed in permanent homes," she said.

According to the Colorado Office of Child Representatives, McCarthy said, there were 19 new cases across the three-county region in 2009, involving about 50 children. Adding ongoing cases to that total, she said, means 126 abused and neglected children were involved in court proceedings in 2009 in Grand, Moffat and Routt counties.

"It's a significant number of children, unfortunately," McCarthy said.

Vickie Clark, director of the Routt County Department of Human Services, said she looks forward to working with McCarthy and the CASA program.

"It's a brand new program. We have never had this kind of advocate in this part of the state," Clark said. "I think we're going to work well with them and we're optimistic that it's going to be a positive thing for kids in Routt County."

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