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CASA featured in World & News Report

US News and World Report picked up a Colorado CASA story on the AP wire this week…

DENVER (AP) — The call usually comes around 7 each night, while Sarah Sparks is watching a movie with her two daughters on the couch. She keeps her phone close so she doesn’t miss it.

On the other end of the line is a 7-year-old girl, a foster child who lives in a Denver residential treatment center, a girl whose future is unsettled as long as the criminal charges against her mother are pending. At night, when the children who live in the center have showered and put on their pajamas and are allowed to call home, the girl has no one to call but Sparks, her court-appointed special advocate, The Colorado Sun reported.

“I ask her how her day was and what she had for lunch and if she needs new shoes,” said Sparks, who became a CASA volunteer three years ago. Before they hang up, they always say the same thing.

“I love you, sweetie. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” Sparks tells the girl. And the child responds, “You’re the best place anyone could be. The best person anyone could see.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Sparks is not allowed to visit the child, per the recommendations of the residential center as well as Boulder Voices for Children, the nonprofit that trained her to become a CASA. Sparks first met the girl in August, visiting her at her first foster home and then her second. Sparks saw the child twice at the residential treatment center before the coronavirus pushed their connection to nightly phone calls and once-a-week FaceTimes.

It is what’s happened during the pandemic to hundreds of relationships between Colorado foster kids and the volunteers trying to make sure they are safe. Instead of monthly trips to the park or rounds of mini golf, CASAs — whose role is to speak up in court for what is best for a child at the center of an abuse and neglect case — are searching for ways to maintain connections, even when they can’t see their kids.