Skip to main content
State Seal State Seal State Seal
Home Button Home Button Home Button

Pavliga and Judge Smith Prioritize Child Protection Programs in Portage County

Portage County CASA Program Announces New Director
August 24, 2021
Gail K. Pavliga News

State Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Portage County) announces with Juvenile Court Judge Patricia Smith that Ann Walden has been hired as the Portage County court appointed special advocates (CASAs) director. Dr. Pavliga has been working hard to improve these programs via legislation to ensure the protection of children. Judge Smith and her staff have worked diligently with Doug Stephens from Ohio CASA to bring CASA to Portage County. Walden is set to begin next month.

“We are very excited for CASA to begin in Portage County as our children and families will benefit greatly with the launch of the program,” said local Judge Patricia Smith. “Ms. Walden will be an excellent director and we cannot wait to get started.”

Dr. Pavliga has had conversations with Judge Smith, her staff, Doug Stephens from Ohio CASA and many others to bring this program to Portage County to improve the shortage of both GALs and CASAs, which are integral to the lives of many children. CASAs are volunteers who have been trained to advocate for the best interest of a child who has been abused or neglected. Additionally, they work exclusively on cases involving children. 

“This has been an issue of focus of mine during my time at the Statehouse,” said Pavliga. “With many children that depend on CASAs, through my legislation, the budget, and discussions I’ve had is where I’ve been able to really make changes to enhance this program that benefits children throughout Portage County.”

Pavliga’s bipartisan bill on the issue, under House Bill 226, makes it a first degree misdemeanor for someone to abuse, threaten, or harass a GAL or CASA in carrying out their court mandated duties for the protection of children across the state.

The legislation comes after Pavliga worked to include an amendment that was put into the state budget bill. The amendment increases appropriations for CASAs by $1.5 million for each fiscal year, $500,000 for administrative costs associated with CASA programs and includes another $1 million to establish CASA programs in areas of the state where they are not yet established.

Recently, NBC4 Columbus ran a story highlighting the issues children face surrounding threats against their GAL or CASA designees.

“I’m confident in Walden’s leadership on this program and I look very much forward to working with her and Juvenile Court Judge Patricia Smith on its rollout in the near future,” Pavliga added.