YERINGTON - One woman's efforts to start a Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster children in Lyon County recently encouraged both of the region's district court judges to join the cause.
Judges Archie Blake and Michael Huff earlier this month committed to setting up a small CASA program that would provide advocates to represent foster children in court.
Foster mother Peggy Pauly for the past year or more has worked to bring a CASA program to Lyon County, where she figures more than half of the foster children have nobody speaking on their behalf when they appear before a judge.
Pauly invited the judges, state Division of Child and Family Services officials and Washoe County CASA's executive director to an informational meeting in early November to determine what it would take to establish an advocates program.
Pauly's one-woman effort became a two-judge project during the course of the meeting, she said.
"The judges do desire to get a program going," said Pauly, who has had six foster children in the past four years. "They want a small pilot program run out of their offices. What they want to do is get the program off the ground through their staffs."
Pauly thought launching a Lyon County CASA would be up to her but she is more than willing to limit herself to becoming an inaugural CASA advocate.
"I'm totally out of it now," Pauly said. "It's their baby now."
She said Washoe CASA Executive Director Mary Herzik said she would supply technical assistance for initial training of Lyon advocates. Washoe will be training advocates in February and Pauly is hoping a television hookup is in place by then so that Lyon volunteers can take part in the training in Yerington.
"The whole thing is very promising," Pauly said. "Probably by the end of February we will have our first volunteers sworn in as advocates."
A CASA volunteer fills the void if a foster child doesn't have a court-appointed attorney or other attorney.
"Our goal is to make sure that every child has an advocate speaking for their best interest," Pauly said.
Pauly and another foster mother worked closely with Assembly Speaker Joe Dini this year to draft foster child law changes in Assembly Bill 158. The law requires judges to appoint a CASA advocate if a CASA program is in place.
"The old law said judges may appoint a guardian ad litem," Pauly said. "AB 158 said they shall. It changes may to shall."
A Lyon CASA program would join the state's other for advocate programs in Carson City, Clark, Washoe and Douglas counties.
Pauly said eight potential CASA volunteers attended the informational meeting and she knows of four people so far signing up to join CASA.
People interested in becoming a court appointed special advocate for foster children in Lyon County are asked to write a letter to District Judge Archie Blake, 31 S. Main St., Yerington, Nev. 89447.