CASA for Children, a volunteer-based not-for-profit organization serving abused and neglected children in Washington and Multnomah counties, will graduate 17 newly trained court appointed special advocates, tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Verniere Software offices in Beaverton.

These individuals, who all share a commitment to improving life for at-risk children, have completed 40 hours of comprehensive training and will serve as legal parties to cases involving children who are wards of the court.

Judge James L. Fun of the Washington County Juvenile Court will preside at the graduation ceremony. Once official, these new CASA volunteers will be assigned cases representing children in Washington County.

The volunteers hail from several professions and backgrounds.

They are: Maryanne Andrews, a retired nurse; Simeon Denk, a Web/ graphic design consultant; Kathy Erspamer, of Safeco Insurance; Delia Feliciano, due diligence manager at Scanlan Kemper Bard Companies, retiree Beth Gerber; Melissa Jaffe, attorney; Patricia Johnson, technical services manager for Clackamas County; Vesta Kilkenny, retired real estate agent; Anita Nelson, sales associate; Courtney O'Connor; Julia Parks; Courtney Russell; Jennifer Shonk, yoga instructor; Bob Simpson, sales associate; Kathy Skipper, nurse; Rebecca Taylor, management consultant; and Heidi Wong, human resources associate.

CASA for Children recruits, trains and supervises citizen volunteers known as CASAs who advocate for abused and neglected children living in foster care under the protection of the juvenile courts. Their purpose is to help find safe, permanent homes for each child as quickly as possible.

Last year, more than 3,000 abused and neglected children in Washington and Multnomah counties were living in foster care. A total of 325 CASA volunteers were assigned to advocate on behalf of more than 800 children, and successfully placed 205 children in safe, permanent homes.

Child abuse and neglect in Oregon is at a 10-year high, growing 7 percent in the last two years.

CASA for Children, founded in 1985, is mandated to exist by Oregon legislative statute, but receives less than 17 percent of its annual operating revenue from the state. Instead, the program funds it budget through fund-raising events, special appeals, grants from foundations and corporations, proceeds from the sales of CASA Cards and royalties from 'One Tough Mother,' the autobiography of Columbia Sportswear Chairman Gert Boyle.

Thursday's graduation ceremony marks CASA's seventh training graduation in the past year. More than 100 new CASA volunteers have been trained and assigned cases during that time, helping anywhere from 150 to 250 or more children.

National studies show that a CASA's participation on a foster child's case results in fewer placements in foster care, shorter stays, the delivery of more essential services to the children and their families, better socialization skills and better overall school performance.

For more information, visit or call 503-988-5115.

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