CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASAs are trained volunteers who are appointed by a judge to investigate cases in which a child has been removed from his or her home because of abuse or neglect. CASA is a non-profit nationwide program, and there are currently ten other CASA organizations in West Virginia.
The children the volunteers advocate for have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, and physical neglect in their own homes. Often, the children are moved around between foster homes, shelters, and relatives’ homes. They have been hurt, they are scared, they feel isolated, and they don’t know if or when they will see their parents again. They need a friend. They need a CASA volunteer.
The volunteers are a variety of community members who are assigned to represent abused and neglected children in Circuit Court proceedings. They are often the “eyes and ears” of the court: interviewing family members, digging up records, finding much needed services for the children. The volunteers submit a monthly report to all participants in the hearings updating them on what has been happening with the child and the family, as most lawyers and social workers do not have the time to do the kind of detailed investigation the CASAs perform. The court proceedings usually go on for months, and many times last for longer than one year.
Most importantly, the CASA volunteers meet with the children frequently, offering them a familiar face out of the shuffle of case workers and lawyers. If the children need counseling, medication, special education, glasses, or any other service, the CASA volunteer finds the service for the child and brings it to the attention of the court. Moreover, the volunteers assess the needs of the parents in order to give them a chance to get their lives in order and their children home. These needs are often met with parenting classes, drug rehabilitation programs, budgeting, and counseling. The CASAs find safe, loving, permanent homes for every abused and neglected child they advocate for.