Dennis Adams is a volunteer who helps make homes safe so families can be reunited when abuse and neglect tear them apart.
And in his home of Shoshone County, he’s the go-to guy for Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit organization that trains people to represent the interests of abused and neglected children in court. More than 400 children in North Idaho are represented by CASA volunteers like Adams, 61, a Wallace resident.
Because of his 10 years of service to CASA, Adams today will receive the organization’s first Morgan Richardson Distinguished Advocate Award. The new award honors the former head of the Idaho Child Abuse Response and Education organization.
“There isn’t one instance that’s put him above and beyond,” said Hiedi Person, executive director of CASA. “It’s everything he does for our program and the kids.”
Adams said he learned about CASA from a newspaper article and thought it “looked like a worthwhile organization.”
A majority of the cases stem from drug and alcohol abuse by adults in children’s lives, he said. Neglect is one of the main reasons children are taken from their homes.
“We have kids raising themselves,” he said. “We have parents that don’t know how to raise kids.”
Encouraging those parents and helping them find resources are part of his job, he said.
“We have to remember … no matter how dysfunctional we think their parents are, it’s still their mom and dad and they still love them,” Adams said.
In more than 90 percent of CASA cases, the children return home, he said.
“There are times it’s discouraging,” Adams said, “but when kids go back home safe and secure, it’s very rewarding.”
Silver Hills Elementary counselor Dave Oas, of Osburn, Idaho, nominated Adams for the award. The North Idaho Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Child Abuse will present Adams the award at its quarterly meeting today.
“I have known Denny for over 20 years,” Oas wrote in his nomination. “He has always had an interest in kids.”
Adams was a civil engineering technician for the U.S. Forest Service when he began volunteering with CASA. He said his boss allowed him a flexible schedule so he could represent troubled and abused children in court.
Upon retiring seven years ago, Adams dedicated more time to the program. He’s now a supervisor of the Silver Valley’s five-person CASA team, which represented 55 kids in court last year.
Adams also has volunteered for the Juvenile Probation Department’s victim-offender mediation, and he and his wife, Janet, a Wallace High School English teacher, have taken in several troubled kids over the years.
“Denny and Janet’s support and encouragement have pushed several troubled students to achieving graduation,” Oas wrote in his nomination.
He said Adams has “touched the lives of so many children.”