- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Two of Bozeman’s guardian angels are turning in their wings.

Thirty years ago, when Anita Nybo saw an ad in the paper for volunteers to help abused and neglected children, she immediately wanted to help. It was only when she was finishing up an hour-long interview with the youth probation program that she learned she would have to testify in court, reported the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2bKe8cQ).

“I was appalled,” she said, laughing. “There is no way I’m going to be testifying in court.”

Nybo decided to take one case and then find a good reason why she had to quit. Testifying in court was simply not on the soft-spoken woman’s agenda, no matter how much she wanted to help children in need.

Since then, Nybo has testified many times and is finally wrapping up her last few cases, leaving a lasting legacy in her retirement. Her friend and co-leader, Nancy Mitchell, is saying goodbye with her.

After a few years of volunteering for youth probation, Nybo helped start a new nonprofit under the Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian ad Litem program. Joining more than 930 programs around the country, CASA/GAL of Gallatin County was born.

Around 2001, Mitchell joined the team and stepped up to be a co-director with Nybo. The two make a well-balanced duo, with Mitchell’s outspoken and confident demeanor complimenting Nybo’s gentle warmth.

“We’re pretty much a perfect fit,” said Mitchell.

Gallatin Valley’s CASA/GAL program is designed to protect neglected and abused children in court and advocate for their best interests.

CASA volunteers work directly with children and have unlimited access to all of their confidential records. They speak with parents, family members, teachers, doctors and anyone else involved in the child’s life to get a clear picture of the situation and make a recommendation to the judge.

Above all, the goal is to give the children a happy and stable life, whether it means helping the parents through treatment programs or placing the child in foster care.

“The most important thing is that we are the voice of the child,” Nybo said.

Though there are nearly a thousand CASA programs around the country, CASA in Gallatin Valley stands apart from the rest. To date, 100 percent of children who required a CASA volunteer in the area have gotten one.

In the past 14-odd years, the two women have held multiple 20-hour trainings for new volunteers and mentored them through their first cases. Each case is completely confidential outside of the CASA program, and volunteers often deal with incredibly troubled families.

“If we could talk about these cases, nobody would believe us,” said Mitchell.

Still, the job is rewarding in many ways.

“It’s really a job that you can sink your teeth into and it’s very worthwhile,” said Nybo. “It is frustrating. It is maddening, but it is not boring.”

Nybo and Mitchell stepped down from their director positions at the end of July. They will be succeeded by Glenda Noyes, who has been a therapeutic foster parent for years and is thrilled to be part of the organization.

“I have a huge heart for kids, especially kids that come from hard places,” said Noyes. She described Nybo and Mitchell as “just remarkable.”

As for Nybo and Mitchell? They are doing just fine, and they plan to do “anything we want” in retirement, they said.


Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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