CASA Blog

04 Jan

CASA Board Member Spotlight – Jennifer Smith

My name is Jennifer Smith, and I have been on the CASA of Yellowstone County Board of Directors for approximately four years. I more or less invited myself to join the CASA board after learning about CASA through my work with Billings Public Schools. I have been an administrator with Billings Public Schools for the last eight years as the Executive Director of Indian Education, English Language Programming, and SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Programming. Throughout my entire career as...

28 Dec

Best Wishes, Judge Todd!

  Hon. Gregory R. Todd (Larry Mayer Billings Gazette) The Yellowstone County courthouse will look a little different starting in January. The Honorable Gregory R. Todd will be retiring from the 13th Judicial District effective December 31, 2021 after almost 21 years on the bench. Judge Todd began hearing dependency neglect cases immediately upon assuming the bench, but since 2014, Judge Todd has overseen Yellowstone Family Recovery Court (YFRC), an intensive program for some Yellowstone County parents whose kids have been removed...

12 Oct

Book Review: The Deepest Well

One of the most talked about books in the CASA of Yellowstone County office over the past couple of years is The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. (First Mariner Books, 2018).  This incredibly readable book, a quick 242 pages, describes the author’s journey from treating kids in San Francisco’s poorest neighborhood to speaking nationally about how trauma affects children of every socioeconomic level. Photo Credit: Cottonbro Where We’ve Come From             Burke Harris describes...

10 Sep

Building Powerhouse Habits

You would think that a blog about building habits would be January fare, but here we are, on the tail end of a hot Montana summer, and I’m going to talk about habits.  It seems like this summer has had almost all of the activity that would have happened in 2020 crammed together with usual 2021 summer things, combined handily with ridiculously hot temperatures and a pretty brutal fire season. Coming out of this busy season, many of us are...

10 Sep

Advocate Spotlight – Katie & Levi Gill

Katie & Levi Gill with their two sons, Jude and Caleb Married couple, Katie and Levi Gill became volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates together in the summer of 2019. Leading up to that time, they both knew they wanted to get involved with a program benefiting kids, and had seen a lot of the advertising around town about CASA. Katie and Levi have a young family of their own, and Levi works out of state seasonally, so they decided to become...

27 Aug

The Guardian: An Interview with Deborah DePietro

I recently spoke with Deborah DePietro about her years as an attorney guardian ad litem for children in foster care. I asked her to share some of her insights as she transitions to retirement and reflects back on her career. Deborah grew up in New York and moved to California for law school, where she attended classes at night while working full time in the insurance and financial industries. After passing the California bar exam—often considered to be the most difficult...

25 Jun

Memory Lane

Wrapping up my fourth year (and going strong!) here at CASA of Yellowstone County, I’ve been thinking a lot lately of one of my own childhood experiences. When I was 15 years old, just finished with driver’s ed and saving up for a car, I got a babysitting gig through Billings Job Service. The family had two young kids and were looking for a babysitter while the parents were at work. I wasn’t used to babysitting kids I didn’t already...

19 Jun

My Father’s Day Thoughts

  Of course around Father’s Day my mind drifts towards thoughts of my dad.  He moved into his heavenly mansion on May 18, 2014.   After a short, but long, five month battle with cancer, the horrid disease took his life.  At this time I had already been pondering volunteer work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.  This life altering tragedy just spurred me on. As I navigated my own grief as well as the grief of my mother, I realized that...

20 May

The Gen Y Guide to Becoming a CASA

I recently spoke with Marti Liechty and Zach Duhon, two students finishing up their first year of law school at the University of Montana. In addition to their status as law students, Marti and Zach share another common endeavor, which was the subject of our conversation: They both volunteer their time as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for children in foster care. Marti Liechty & Zach Duhon I wanted to learn more about their motivations, as two young people – and members...

19 May

Advocate Spotlight – Joan Sleeth

Joan Sleeth was always impressed with the positive things she heard about Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) from foster parents and teacher colleagues. After her retirement from teaching, she knew she still wanted to be involved with kids, so in November 2020, she became a CASA herself, feeling that the role would be a good fit. Joan retired from her career as an elementary teacher after 31 years with Billings Public Schools. Joan has her master’s degree in Special Education; she...