An article published yesterday in The Columbian newspaper suggested that campaign materials produced by the political action committee Save Our City misrepresented Vancouver City Council candidate Josephine Wentzel’s volunteer activities as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). The newspaper could not confirm Wentzel’s participation with the local program administered by the YWCA of Clark County.
However, CASA Program Director Jo Waddel confirmed in writing today that Wentzel participated with the Clark County CASA program in 1995.
Wentzel volunteered at a time when CASA records were not entered into a computer database, but instead were administered via hard documents, some written by hand. In addition, the courts allowed volunteers to use assumed names for privacy purposes, due to situations that might require them to investigate a child’s situation and report to the court as she monitored case progress.
As a volunteer, Wentzel went by the nickname “Jaye.” After Wentzel’s mother died, Wentzel felt compelled to honor her mother and use her given name, Josephine, which is how she is known, today.
In an email correspondence to supporters Wednesday, Wentzel questioned the motivation of the newspaper to call her out. Wentzel said she was reluctant to respond to the Columbian’s many requests for comment because she believes the paper is orchestrating a smear campaign against her. In an Oct. 17 editorial, the paper’s editorial staff called her a “toxic influence.”
“Am I guilty because I refused to speak to those who are out to assassinate my character?” Wentzel said. “Does a newspaper have the right to bully and attempt to humiliate someone based on lack of information?”
Exhibiting the passion that is Wentzel’s hallmark, she declares that she volunteered, was trained and sworn in, “in front of a Clark County judge,” and exhorts her supporters to stand up against “media bullying.”
Wentzel hopes the heightened focus on CASA will not deter other volunteers, but rather will raise awareness of their program and the need to serve children in the community.
The CASA program serves abused and neglected children in the local court system. CASA volunteers advocate for the best interest of the child. Waddel reports there are approximately 600 children who need to be served, and they desperately need volunteers.
As was Wentzel experience, volunteers complete 30 plus hours of training and make a long term commitment of at least one-year to provide about three to eight hours per month to represent the best interest of the child they are assigned. Wentzel speaks with passion of her experience representing at risk children.
“You become that child’s everything.”
For more information on how to become a court appointed special advocate for the children of Clark County, visit the CASA website.