CASA forced to end 19-year child and family program

A Colorado Supreme Court directive has some unintended consequences for CASA of the Pikes Peak region.

CASA is closing its domestic relations program after 19 years, because a recent Supreme Court directive designed to strengthen regulations for privately paid child and family investigators has affected the non-profit’s ability to participate as child advocates in divorce or domestic situations.

Under the new directive, CASA cannot act in a volunteer capacity in divorce or custody cases. The nonprofit can no longer provide training or supervision to volunteers, instead volunteers are now required to attend state training and certification by the state as private, independent child and family investigators.

Because of the ruling, CASA’s board of directors decided to dissolve the program.

The domestic service program is the only CASA program affected by the change, Executive Director Trudy Strewler Hodges said. The nonprofit trains volunteers to act as court-appointed advocates for children in judicial settings. The group will continue its core volunteer advocacy program for abused and neglected children, its supervised exchange and parenting time program, as well as the children and families in transition classes.

The program started in 1992 when the chief judge of the Fourth Judicial District asked for CASA’s help in domestic relations cases. CASA’s objective was to keep the child out of the middle of the conflict and to help ascertain appropriate custody, Strewler Hodges said.

“We are saddened and disappointed that we will no longer be able to provide this program in the Pikes Peak region,” she said. “Children caught in the middle of extreme divorce disputes will no longer have a CASA volunteer in court.”

CASA’s domestic relations program was the only one in the state, and Judicial District Judge Robert Lowery said he was hoping to find a way to work around new Supreme Court rules – but could not.