Changes come to CASA program |

Changes come to CASA program

by Merrie Leininger

Jenean Clement has been one of many changes in the Douglas County CASA program in the past months.

Clement was named coordinator by the district court judges after the Family Support Council stopped sponsoring the program 14 months ago. CASA stands for court appointed special advocate, and the program provides representation for children involved in court cases of child custody, abuse or neglect.

The office is in the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, outside Judge Michael Gibbons’ courtroom, equipped with a new computer program – the Passport Program – funded by a grant.

Gibbons said the Passport Program takes the name of a juvenile that a CASA volunteer has been assigned and gathers all the information about that child: medical history, school records, and if the child has been in a foster home or through the court system.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us,” he said. “Having the CASA office in the courthouse was something we’ve talked about for years. Having her right outside my door is convenient instead of tracking people down.”

Judge David Gamble said the judges decided on Clement because of her experience in volunteer management.

“We thought she would really bring brightness and light to the job,” he said. “She has a lot of experience supervising volunteer organizations in connection with kids.”

The Jacks Valley resident began less than a month ago and already has plans for recruiting more volunteers.

In the past, she has been a substitute teacher, was activities coordinator of Youth and Family Programming in Storey County and volunteer coordinator for Americorp.

After working in many part-time jobs over the years, she said she was looking for the perfect full-time job.

“Once I applied for this job, I quit looking for others,” she said. “I just knew this is what I wanted to do. I’ve always been an advocate for children in everything I’ve done.”

The challenge of learning about the court system was also part of the allure, she said.

Clement has two children, Joel, 12, a 7th grader at Carson Valley Middle School and Jared, 8, a 3rd grader at Jacks Valley Elementary.

Providing a voice for children who are in situations not of their own making, is something Clements is committed to.

“I’ve worked with children who have been put in places and situations they have no control over. If somebody doesn’t step in for them they will grow up to be wounded, scarred adults,” Clements said. “The healing has to start somewhere and I can’t look for it to start with anyone else. I have to start with me and what I do.”

Although she has not been through the training to become a sworn CASA volunteer yet, she plans participaing in the next training session in October.

Clement wants to hire more volunteers to help out the currently overburdened 17 active volunteers.

Those who take on the challenge of becoming a CASA should know it is not an easy process.

The application is a thick packet and the background checks are almost as extensive as those for foster parents, she said.

The training involves 20 hours of classroom time, 10 hours of homework and 10 hours of court observation.

“Anyone who has a concern for kids and wants to volunteer, I want to encourage them,” she said.

Gamble said the CASA volunteers are very much needed.

“They are tremendously important to me. They bring information we could not possibly get any other way,” he said. “They have directly saved children’s lives when they have recommended them taken out of a situation when no one else knew the child was in jeopardy. They championed the children’s position until we heard them.”

Those interested in taking the training can call Clement at 782-6247 or stop by her office in the courthouse for more information.

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