Clallam commissioners eye emergency funding for CASA

Could provide $50,000 to program that advocates for children in dependency court

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners will consider an approximately $50,000 budget emergency to fund 2.5 positions in the Court Appointed Special Advocate program as the county looks at a long-term funding solution.

The county learned recently that the state would not renew a Victims of Crime Act grant that has helped the program increase the number of volunteers.

The 20-month grant funded 2.5 positions that helped the program go from 19 CASAs in 2017, serving a third of the children in dependency court, up to 62 volunteers currently, with another 13 volunteers finishing up background checks. The program is expected to grow to more than 80 CASAs by this fall.

Those employees support CASAs, especially new CASAs, who advocate for the county’s most vulnerable children in dependency court. They learn about each situation and tell the judge what is best for each child.

“This grant was a shot in the arm,” said Interim County Administrator Rich Sill during a work session Monday. “These folks were brought in to revitalize the program.”

Sill said the budget emergency would fund the program and the remaining 18 training sessions that are needed to reach the program’s goal of having 80 CASAs through September.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget emergency during their July 30 meeting, starting at 10 a.m.

The county routinely processes “budget emergencies,” unexpected costs that were not budgeted in the previous year.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said he now wants the county to look at the “long-term thinking about how particularly juvenile justice is funded,” he said. “When I saw the number of people on grants, it’s scary.”

Johnson said he is concerned that many positions are grant-funded or partially grant-funded.

Jody Jacobson, director of Juvenile and Family Services, said that while many positions are grant funded, those grants are more like “reimbursement for services” that are mandated by the state.

She said the grant that funded the CASA recruitment efforts was different than the others.

“This particular grant was very specific,” she said. “It was for this project. It had a start date and end date.”

She said because of the number of grants needed to fund the department, budgeting can be difficult — especially when different agencies operate on different fiscal years.

“It has always balanced,” she said. “It’s sort of a guessing game, but it has balanced in the past at least.”

Ozias said the budget emergency will allow commissioners to have more in-depth conversations about funding the program in the future.

“It will be a series of discussions over the course of time,” he said. “We are attempting to come up with a short-term solution to give us a chance to take a more comprehensive look at what is the right way to support this program over the long term.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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