Rights,Court Appointed Special Advocates,Neglect,Child abuse,Child,Parent

Montana favors parents’ rights over kids’ safety, advocates charge

January 31, 2017
in Kids

When parents abuse or neglect their children, Montana’s child protection system often places parents’ rights ahead of keeping kids safe. That’s the charge made by two Bozeman women who worked for decades with the courts to represent “the best interests of the child.” “The system is broken,” said Anita Nybo. 67. “There is no question the system is broken.” Nybo said state policies too often put a higher priority on reunifying dysfunctional families, or “parental rights vs. what’s in the best interests of the child.” Reunifying families is a worthy goal, she said, but the emphasis should be on the child’s health and safety. “Overall, the child abuse and neglect system is failing kids miserably,” said Nancy Mitchell, 76. “There needs to be some major changes to protect kids, and they are not being protected right now.” The two women retired last summer after years as co-directors of Gallatin County’s nonprofit CASA/GAL program, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and Guardian ad Litem. Nybo was with CASA for 30 years and Mitchell for 16 years. “We didn’t resign because we’re old,” Mitchell said. “We felt we couldn’t protect children anymore.” CASA trains volunteers to serve as the eyes and ears of judges in child abuse and neglect cases. Their job is to research each case in depth, talk to the children, relatives, teachers, doctors and others. They report back to the judge with the information gathered and recommendations about what would be in the best interests of the child. The CASA program spread nationwide after it was started in 1976 in Seattle by a judge who felt that, to help sort out the conflicting stories from attorneys and parents, he needed an independent person to research the situation and...

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