It is the mission of CASA of Larimer County to be a voice in court for abused and neglected children and a safe place in the community for conflict-free family interactions. We accomplish our mission through two programs; Court Appointed Special Advocates and Harmony House. While we provide different services through each program, both of our programs work to ensure the safety of children in our community while providing objective documentation to help the courts determine the best interest for children.
In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. That first Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program has grown a network of more than 955 CASA and guardian ad litem programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states. In 1987, CASA of Larimer County was founded by Judges William Dressel and John-David Sullivan after they learned about the National CASA program and the impact it was having on the lives of children.
Following an intensive training on all aspects of Dependency & Neglect cases and child abuse, CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to represent the best interests of children who have been victims of abuse or neglect. Volunteers visit with the children weekly, gather information from family members, medical professionals, teachers and therapists, and then make recommendations to the court regarding services for and placement of the children. CASA volunteers commit to stay with each case until it is closed (usually 12-18 months) and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives during this difficult time.
In 2016, 64 CASA advocates were assigned to 186 children, providing independent advocate for theses children and their best interests. These volunteers serve as part of the team that gathers information and works to determine the best interests of the child and then make a recommendation to the Court as to the best permanent home. These volunteers spent 4,858 hours interviewing family members, medical professionals, teachers, therapists, and the child in order to provide a clear, current picture of the child’s situation.
We are currently only able to serve 23% of the children needing advocacy here in Larimer County and have set a goal to provide a CASA volunteer to every child involved in Dependency and Neglect cases by the end of 2020. If you or someone you know would like more information on becoming a CASA volunteer and advocating for a child, please contact Annette Hoyt at Annette@casalarimer.com.
In 1991, the the historic Ziegler farm house in Fort Collins was donated to CASA of Larimer County. Community members had expressed concern over the practice of custody exchanges and supervised visits being conducted in public places without the supervision of neutral professionals. CASA of Larimer County named the property Harmony House and used the donation to create a program to provide a safe place for children and families in need of supervised visits and custody exchanges.
The Harmony House provides a safe and home-like setting for supervised visitation and exchange services for children and their non-custodial family members. The house and grounds are integral to our services and set us apart from other organizations that may provide a similar service. Families can explore the houses together and use it much like they would in their own home. The Harmony House allows families to enjoy meals together, play outside, work on art projects, and continue making memories in a place that feels like home.
As a member of the Supervised Visitation Network (SVN) program, the Harmony House has helped establish best practices for other supervised visitation facilities and continues to be a model, both locally and nationally. In 2016, 326 children and their families used the Harmony Houses. Staff, volunteers, and interns supervised 1,396 visits and 1,811 exchanges so that these families could maintain relationships during times of domestic conflict. In 2016, Harmony House gratefully benefited from over 4,350 community volunteer hours. It takes a lot to maintain this historic property and we are grateful to the many community partners who complete service projects and donate materials to help us preserve this property for future use.
For the safety and confidentiality of the families we serve, the Harmony House is open by appointment only. To find out more about our services or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 970.223.5966 or email us at email@example.com.