CASA Blog

16 Mar

CASA Community Night

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of opening the first-ever CASA Community Night event at the beautiful and historic Babcock Theatre. Our vision to host a community night came out of the understanding that the challenges children face in foster care require community-wide solutions. With close to 800 children in foster care in Yellowstone County alone, you can imagine many of these children experience loneliness and uncertainty in degrees most of us cannot even imagine. And so, on a...

04 Feb

An Engine for Growth: The Peer Coordinator Model at Work

The CASA of Yellowstone County vision is to “provide a highly trained volunteer Advocate for every abused and neglected child in the Yellowstone County court and foster care systems.”  The infrastructure, staff, and training are in place to support advocates for all of the approximately 800 kids in foster care in Yellowstone County today, but there is something else advocates need to be able to speak for those most vulnerable kids—peer coordinators. National CASA requirements allow for no more than 30...

25 Jan

Exit Interview with Myself

I signed up to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate when I was 25 years old. I served on one case, involving two children—a boy and a girl. Except for a period when the children were briefly and unsuccessfully reunified with their parents, I served continuously throughout the children’s time in the foster care system, a journey which concluded with the children’s adoption earlier this month. I am now 31 years old. I spent nearly 20% of my life as the...

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...

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...

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...

19 Mar

It Takes A Village

  He has been in State custody for 6 of his 11 years.  His life’s timeline looks like this — in State care for 2 years and 5 months/Reunified with his mom for 2 years/Re-entered into State care for 2+ years until the present. His village: 9 school teachers and school counsellors 5 professional therapists 9 attorneys – either county attorneys or public defenders 2 sets of grandparents his mother a non-compliant father his tribe and an Indian Child Welfare Act qualified expert witness one foster family 3 social workers 2 group...