CASA ‘poster child’ for accountability

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I am writing to correct the statement that the CDA Press reported in their February 14 Editorial “Awakened by the ‘e’ word’s warning” stating: “In recent years, cases of massive theft have rocked the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, Kootenai County government and cities large and small, including Coeur d’Alene and Athol.”

FOURTEEN years ago, the North Idaho CASA program was a VICTIM of embezzlement by a selfish and shameless Executive Director (ED) who betrayed our program and the children we serve. But the ED was caught because there were financial procedures in place and they worked. The ED subsequently received a felony conviction and punishment. The financial procedures were further strengthened which has resulted in the long-term financial stability of the organization. As part of this, one of the program oversight entities performed an on-site review. They left impressed with the due-diligence of the organization in resolving the criminal matter.

The FACT is that few other local government or private organizations receive the level of financial oversight and scrutiny that North Idaho CASA receives due to it being a dual-sector entity: serving as an agency but identified as a non-profit. North Idaho CASA pays for and has annual independent financial audits; reports financials to the Supreme Court of Idaho monthly, quarterly and annually; receives on-site assessments from the Supreme Court; and reports to the National CASA Association quarterly, semi-annually and annually. There is a Finance Committee of the Board of Directors that meets monthly to review financials. There is a Policy Committee that oversees financial policies including the programs Financial Management Policy, Investment Policy, Risk Management Policy, and Bookkeeping and Accounting Procedures. These policies ensure proper procedures are followed and that there is full transparency and disclosure. CASA performs highly on all these reviews without concerns reported by any of these multiple oversight entities in over a decade.

North Idaho CASA is one of the highest performing CASA programs in the United States based on the number of child victims served by volunteer Advocates in child protection courts AND its fiscal responsibility. Our program is a poster child for successful CASA programs.

An erroneous statement can cast a feeling of suspicion onto a high-achieving organization which could potentially jeopardize future grants, state funding and donations — all of which CASA depends upon to provide support to our volunteer Advocates who serve our vulnerable children. CASA is about mending the shattered lives of children. One statement can negate years of hard work and foresight in developing a strong, successful and transparent organization. This statement could, in some minds, cast doubt on a dozen Executive Directors, a hundred board and staff members, and hundreds of volunteer Advocates that have served over the years. This statement could affect our ability to represent all 400 child victims of abuse and neglect that CASA serves every year.

Know that the North Idaho CASA program has spent 27 years ensuring the voices of thousands of child victims have been heard, their basic needs met, and that they reside in safe and nurturing homes. We are truly grateful for our community’s on-going support of CASA to enable us to protect these child victims.

•••

KJ Brant is CEO of North Idaho CASA.

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