The first week back at school is exciting for most Missoula children, but kids in foster care face a time of uncertainty and insecurity.

We spoke to Emilie Landsiedel, Development and Outreach Manager for CASA of Missoula about what her organization does to help the Missoula area foster children.

“CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates,” began Landsiedel. “We are appointed by the court when a child is involved in an abuse, open abuse, or neglect case. And so we train volunteers who get appointed to a case or a family of children, and their job is to come in as a neutral third party and advocate for those kids’ best interests.”

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Landsiedel described how kids in foster care can feel insecure and uncertain about their lives and their future.

“When kids come back to school this time of year, and for kids in foster care, it's exciting, but it can also be scary for them, and that’s because they have so many, many changes happening in their lives,” she said. “They've most likely been removed from their homes. Some of them have been experiencing homelessness or missed years of school, and their basic needs aren't being met, and so we try to provide a stable person for that child.”

Landsiedel described some of the CASA volunteers and how they interact to assist children in foster care.

“CASA volunteers are community members who come into volunteer and advocate for these kids,” she said. “They help them with their school as part of that service. They get to know their teachers and help them if they have learning disabilities and things like that and connect them to after-school programs. So we're just kind of bringing awareness to those kids in foster care and the extra struggles that they might have in returning to school.”

She said CASA volunteers are not necessarily all retired, but come from all walks of life.

“CASA volunteers are of all ages and all backgrounds,” she said. “We have a lot of amazing retired CASA volunteers and they do put a lot of time into their cases. But we also have a lot of people who are just working parents, because typically a CASA volunteer spends five to 16 hours a month on their case. That can be done at any time during the day, a lot of it, whether it might be sending an email or a phone call. So a lot of our volunteers just make it work. We even have quite a few law students who do it while going to school full time.”

CASA of Missoula is currently accepting applicants for their fall CASA training starting in October. For more details on CASA in Missoula, click here.

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