Office of the Child's Representative Briefing
COMMITTEE ON JOINT JUDICIARY
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01:32 PM -- Office of the Child's Representative Briefing
Theresa Spahn, Executive Director, Office of the Child's Representative (OCR), distributed three handouts to the committees (Attachments A, B, and C). Ms. Spahn introduced her staff and explained what the OCR does. The OCR is mandated to represent the best interest of all children in the Colorado court system by overseeing the attorney services provided by guardians ad litem (GALs). There are approximately 250 attorneys in Colorado who provide GAL services to the courts. The agency spends 96 percent of its budget each year directly on attorney services for children, with only 4 percent spent on administrative costs. Ms. Spahn explained how the OCR was created in 2001 and the changes to the office since that time. She talked about SB 09-048, which removes the annual audit requirement from the OCR, as recommended by the Office of the State Auditor. She stressed that the auditor has issued no findings on the OCR fiscal activities over the last three years. Removing the audit provision from law is cost effective for the state.
Ms. Spahn introduced, Mahna Salter, a contract attorney with the OCR. Ms. Salter shared a story of a child she represented during the course of her duties. The young man entered the system when he was six-years-old and has committed several criminal offenses in since that time. He has been in treatment for violent behavior and has been in a number of group home situations. Ms. Salter took the time to help the young man reconnect with his mother, whom he had no seen in nine years. She believes this will be a key component in helping him find a way to better manage his anger and criminal tendencies. She indicated that she respects the work done by child services case workers, but feels they are overloaded and unable to give each child the attention they need.
Ms. Spahn stressed that OCR attorneys are always willing to answer questions from the legislature. She shared information about her background as a judge and a district attorney and stated that she looks forward to working with the Judiciary Committees to protect the interests of children. She responded to questions from the committee about a pilot program in the 4th Judicial District to establish public defender model offices for the OCR. The program is no longer a pilot and is currently functioning well in that district. There are currently no plans to expand that model to other districts, due to the costs of maintaining a full staff in each office.