NHCASA is a 503 c3 nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors. Kate Kelley serves as the executive director. She has been with the program for 9 years. A native of Redfield, SD, Kate traveled the world with her husband, John, an Army officer, for 20 years before returning to South Dakota. They have lived in Spearfish for the past 12 years. Kate and John have 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
NHCASA was started in 1986 by Judge Warren Johnson (ret) and a task force made up of community members. NHCASA is an affiliate of the National CASA program and abides by its guidelines.
NHCASA serves Butte, Corson, Dewey, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Perkins, and Ziebach counties.
The philosophy NHCASA differs from that of most other nonprofit organizations which advocate within the court system. We recruit and train volunteers to become a powerful voice within abuse and neglect cases. CASA volunteers are everyday people who do what no other volunteers do: In court, they speak solely in the interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. The commitment required of CASA volunteers is unique, and one of the most intense in the realm of volunteer service. After undergoing a through screening process and 30 hours of training, CASA volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court and matched with a child or family of children. CASA volunteers are expected to be active from the beginning of the case until the end, with the average case lasting about one and a half years.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to be the voice for abused and neglected children in court. They recommend what is best for the children at this crucial point in their lives. The result is the child is placed into a safe, loving home where he or she can thrive. It is the vision of NHCASA to provide a volunteer for each and every abused and neglected child who needs one.
NHCASA provided 35 trained volunteers serving over 6,300 hours to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the 4th Judicial Circuit last year. In each of these cases, the CASA volunteer offered to the court information on behalf of the child, which would not otherwise have been offered. The CASA volunteer is often the only consistent person in the life of a child who is being placed in multiple foster homes and may have many different service providers. The consistency of CASA is invaluable in order to foster trust and to successfully advocate for the best interests of the child.
In addition to advocating for children in the context of court, we also have a goal of educating the public about CASA, abuse and neglect issues children face, and ways to intervene and make a difference for children. We regularly speak to organizations and civic groups on the function of CASA and the needs of children. All of these activities not only raise awareness of the purpose of CASA and the needs of the children, but they also are preventive in nature, as people learn more about the issues of child abuse and become educated in ways to recognize and prevent it. We also sponsor monthly public education forums on topics relating to the needs of children and families.
NHCASA seeks to promote and protect the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in court proceedings through the advocacy efforts of trained volunteers.