Nevada CASA Association’s Relationship with the Court Improvement Program

Bill FowlerBill Fowler, Executive Director, Nevada CASA Association

Summary: Court Improvement Project funds have played a significant and critical role in the growth of the CASA mission in Nevada, providing a source of sustained funding in an area with limited resources.

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Throughout 2005 and during the early part of 2006, a group of concerned citizens held a series of meetings with the intention of founding a state CASA association. For the most part, the members of this group were intimately acquainted with the CASA mission. They included the Nevada Supreme Court’s director of the administrative office of the courts, a district court judge and two local CASA program directors.

A principal obstacle to the creation of a state CASA association in Nevada was funding. As the Nevada Legislature meets every other year, from February to June in odd years, potential funding from that source was not an option. In addition, during the period mentioned above, Nevada’s executive branch was not able to provide financial support for the proposed association.

In recognition of these fiscal constraints, the group decided to apply for a start-up grant from Nevada’s Court Improvement Program (NCIP). According to an NCIP web page on the Nevada Supreme Court’s website: “… [NCIP] was formed to address changing roles of court oversight in child abuse and neglect cases brought on by federal guidelines and Nevada statutes….” The group’s initial grant application to NCIP was approved and the funding permitted the start up of the Nevada CASA Association (NCA).

During the past several years, the economy of Nevada has been severely impacted, and funding from the state of Nevada government to support NCA and local CASA programs has not been available. Also, only a handful of larger corporations are headquartered in the state, which limits the amount of private funding available for CASA programs in Nevada.

NCIP has, however, been a big supporter of NCA and local CASA programs located in rural areas of Nevada, and it has embraced the CASA mission. To ensure that CASA is recognized as a valuable member of the child welfare community in the state, NCA’s executive director has been appointed to NCIP’s Select Committee, which is chaired by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta. This committee sets the goals and objectives of NCIP and gives direction to NCIP’s staff. Moreover, portions of NCIP’s current strategic plan state that:

  • Appropriate funds [will be provided] on an annual basis for local pilot CASA programs relating to improving advocacy resources for children at risk. [One] grant [each] year.”
  • “Provide assistance for speakers or attendees for the annual statewide CASA multidisciplinary conference focusing on issues facing children and families at risk in Nevada….”

In addition, NCIP’s strategic plan provides that:

NCA, in conjunction with the state of Nevada Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children coordinator, the Nevada Division of Children and Family Services and selected judges and attorneys, will acquire or develop training modules for social workers, judges, attorneys, CASA volunteers, foster parents and other service providers.

NCA, working with the NCIP coordinator, foster parent associations and the CIP Select Committee, will identify five foster youth each year to attend a national conference sponsored by a national resource center

Over the past several years, NCIP has assisted various CASA programs in the state in the following ways:

  • It helped fund NCA’s annual statewide conference.
  • It provided a start-up grant for the Northeastern Nevada CASA program, which is based in Elko, NV.
  • It awarded a grant to Great Basin CASA, which is headquartered in Ely, NV. This provided the necessary funding for continued operation of the program.
  • It granted funding to Pioneer Territory CASA, which is located in Pahrump and began operations in January 2011.
  • It provided funding to NCA so that it could assist in the development of new CASA programs in the rural areas of Nevada.

What is interesting about the programs in Elko, Ely and Pahrump is that they are small, rural 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Without funding from CIP, the chances for the establishment of these programs would have been remote. All these programs have been started during the past four years, providing a CASA presence in three sparsely populated areas of Nevada.

NCIP continues its support of the CASA mission in Nevada, and currently it is considering a grant application which, if approved, will bring the Casey Family Programs’ Knowing Who You Are training to Nevada.

In closing, it can be seen that NCIP has indeed played a very significant and critical role in the growth of the CASA mission in Nevada. NCIP’s support of NCA and various CASA programs in Nevada has resulted in additional abused and neglected children being served by CASA volunteers.

 

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