Grand County is special, not just for its incredible beauty but also because of the people and organizations that always seem willing and able to help when needed. Here’s one such group.
I recently met with a former agent of Homeland Security (Tim O’Connor) who now, in retirement and living full-time in Winter Park, has become a volunteer “Advocate” with CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Because I was interested in what CASA does, Tim introduced me to Alan Hallman, CASA’s executive director for Grand, Routt and Moffit counties.
Alan described CASA’s primary mission as reactive (to bad situations for kids) and preventative. The prevention mission was most interesting because it is a new focus for CASA and can be very beneficial to a real world issue we all face daily when using our computers or phones for the internet or social media.
Earlier this year, CASA partnered with the East Ground School district (which includes Winter Park and Fraser) to present “ScreenAgers”, a program shown to over 200 parents and kids and can be best described with the following:
“Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span? Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that with her own kids and learned that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. She wondered about the impact of all this time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time—friction she knew all too well. Out of this came the documentary Screenagers. “
Another program CASA is rolling out in the coming months is IROC2 (Institute for Responsible Online & Cellphone communication), which teaches kids and parents both the dangers of the internet and social media and how to PROTECT yourself from those dangers. IROC2 stresses that you must first understand that anything you put out there is both public and permanent. IROC2 Received the 2017 National Anti-Bullying Award by the School Safety Advocacy Council.
Check out these videos. They’re short (under 3 minutes, well done and helpful)
ScreenAgers video – https://www.screenagersmovie.com
IROC2 videos – http://www.iroc2.org/91.html
CASA’s other mission is stepping into difficult situations as directed by the courts. This means acting as an Advocate on behalf of a child whose home-life living situation is in peril. To act as an Advocate, Tim went through an extensive background check (no big deal for a former federal agent), lengthy interview process and 30 hours of training. This can be a tough job, and often very stressful job which is why he typically handles only 1 (maybe 2) cases at a time. But the Advocate program is critical and everyone at CASA makes it the top priority.
CASA has just moved into new space in Granby and is fixing it up to be a safe, friendly and positive space for kids. They’re going to have an open house shortly and I’ll let you know when a date is set.
Whether you want to volunteer or not, CASA is a great program to support. If interested in volunteering as an advocate or with other volunteer opportunities please contact Alan Hallman at Alan@kidscasa.org.