Volunteer for CASA and Change a Child’s Life

It is only natural that one’s time, especially in this fast paced multitasking society of today, is very preciously spent. We have to prioritize and decide what matters most in hierarchical fashion both what we must do and what we would like to do. In my household, while I do hold a career-gratifying part time job, the bulk of making financial ends meet falls to my husband; the majority of my time is spent fulfilling my primary and more than full time job of being a mother. Raising my daughter is challenging, fun, hard and easy all at the same time. I’d like to believe that my daughter thinks she has the best mom in the world. After all, it is mom who is the one that gives her hugs and kisses and says I love you many times a day; mom prepares her dinners and tucks her in bed each night, praises her good grades, takes her to piano and gymnastics lessons, and even to Disney World. What’s not to love? Mom pays her allowance for chores she somewhat reluctantly completes. My daughter is rarely in “trouble”, and when she is, she knows that she’ll apologize and will survive without her phone or television privileges until her time is served. She knows I am here for her in all things, in all ways. Witnessing her blossom into a smart, confident and compassionate tween and knowing I am part of that process fills my heart with joy. It is with this passion for mothering that I willfully spend some of my valuable time in another capacity, that of serving as a CASA volunteer. Being a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, I can help a child who hasn’t been as fortunate as my daughter.

An abused and neglected child who enters state care out of necessity faces tumultuous change. Removed from parents, and often times siblings, very little doesn’t change for these children. Often these children face switching schools, coping with trauma, weeks and months of waiting and uncertainty. There is nothing easy about entering foster care. As a CASA volunteer, I can be one constant for a child in need. I become the voice for a child in “the system”.

I have just completed my second year as a volunteer. As a CASA, I visit with the children to which I am assigned. I get to know them, and all aspects of their case. I learn about what led him or her to state custody and about the family dynamics. I help decide what services can be put in place to aid in reunification, if at all possible. If or when this isn’t a possibility, I remain involved with this child until he or she achieves permanency. In many ways, I’m still learning how to do this. Each case is unique and I am never alone. I work closely with my supervisor who has years of experience and an abundance of patience and wisdom to share. When I am unsure of myself, or how to approach a situation, she will offer advice or come along with me, taking the reins while I observe. The time spent on cases depends on a many factors, on average I spend somewhere between 10 and 20 hours per month on this work.

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By becoming a CASA volunteer you are making the decision to be a friend, a source of guidance and consistency that is otherwise not guaranteed these kids. It broadens your life perspective on many social issues, and makes you appreciate all the simplicity in your life that is so easily taken for granted. What I’ve gained in personal growth is worth more than the time I’ve given to this role.

In a typical year more than 200 children move through the court system in Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler Counties of West Virginia. These children have been removed from their home through no fault of their own. Their families are in crisis.
CASA for Children Inc., a tax exempt non-profit agency is a volunteer based organization in Moundsville, West Virginia and serves four counties in the northern panhandle. CASA has been advocating on behalf of abused and neglected children since 2001 in Ohio County, and expanded in 2003 to Marshall County. In 2010, CASA expanded again to Wetzel and Tyler Counties.
In 2014, CASA staff and volunteers provided services to two hundred seventy-seven children and provided the Court with reports recommending a variety of services for abused children and their families. The Judges in our jurisdiction utilize the information learned from CASA volunteers to make important decisions in the lives of children. Since opening our doors, CASA volunteers have worked diligently to help over 400 children to find their way to safe and permanent homes. CASA is the only local program of its kind. In the child welfare and family court systems, it was – and is – nothing short of a transformation. Everything is built around one child and one compassionate, highly trained adult advocate for that child.

When a child has a Court Appointed Special Advocate to speak for them:

• Time in dependent care is reduced
• Delinquency is less likely
• The Child has a better chance to bond with a permanent home.

If you’d like to learn more about become a CASA volunteer:
We believe that CASA is the solution. A CASA volunteer can make all the difference to a child. CASA must continuously recruit volunteers to handle these cases. Before being accepted into the program, volunteers must pass a stringent assessment and background checks, they then attend 30 hours of nationally accredited training before being sworn in before a judge. In addition, each sworn volunteer must fulfill 12 additional hours of training each year.
Contact Director Susan Harrison at 304-810-0952 or executivedirector@wvcasaforchildren.com