Based in Martinsburg, West Virginia
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. After a rigorous training program, CASA volunteers are appointed to investigate cases when children have been removed from their homes because of abuse and/or neglect. CASA is a nationwide program, and there are ten other CASA organizations in West Virginia. Since its establishment in 2003, CASA of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) has trained over 135 volunteers and advocated for more than 637 children in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties. CASA-EP's goal is to increase the base of active volunteers to serve all of the children in the Eastern Panhandle who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and who need our help.
CASA volunteers are given court orders directing them to investigate cases after children have been removed from their homes. Since CASA volunteers carry only one or two cases at a time, they are able to do an in-depth and exhaustive investigation of every case to which they are assigned and provide an invaluable service that helps the judge make a more informed decision about the immediate outcome of each child’s life. The volunteers talk with the children, parents, relations, neighbors, school staff, doctors, and anyone else in the children’s lives who can provide helpful information.
CASA volunteers then prepare reports to the judges for their consideration and coordinate with other agencies to provide the children and their prospective caregivers any services they may need. If the children have to appear in court, the CASA volunteers explain court procedures and what to expect, attend hearings with them, and speak on their behalf when appropriate. Finally, the CASA volunteers make recommendations regarding the placement of the children in safe and permanent homes. The placement recommendation may be to return them to one or both parents, place them with a relative or find an adoptive home or a rehabilitation facility. Child abuse and neglect are significant problems in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties. On average, Child Protective Services investigates nearly 1500 cases of child abuse and neglect in the Eastern Panhandle every year. Unfortunately, this number is growing.
CASA's Guiding Principles
- Every child deserves a safe, loving, permanent home in which to live.
- The child's best interests should be the ultimate criterion in determining the child's placement.
- Every eligible child should be provided with a consistent volunteer advocate.
- Dedication to service
- Commitment to Quality