CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. After a rigorous training program, CASA volunteers are appointed to investigate cases when children have been remoed from their homes because of abuse and/or neglect. CASA is a nationwide program, and there are ten other CASA organizations in West Virginia. CASA of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) was established in 2003. Since then, CASA-EP has trained over 95 volunteers and advocated for nearly 319 children in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties. Our long-term goal is to increase our base of active volunteers, so we can 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. CASA volunteers carry a caseload of only one or two cases at a time. CASA volunteers are able to do an in-depth and exhaustive investigation of every case to which they are assigned, and therefore provide a much-needed 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.
The CASA volunteers then prepare reports to the judges for their consideration, and coordinate with other agencies to get the children and their prospective caregivers any services they may need. If the children have to appear in court, the CASA volunteers tell them about the procedures and what to expect, attend hearings with them, and speak on their behalf when appropriate. Finally, the CASA volunteers make recommendations regarding placing the children in safe and permanent homes. The placement recommendation may be to return them to one or both of the 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. Child Protective Services investigates nearly 1500 cases of child abuse and neglect in the Eastern Panhandle on average every year. Unfortunately, this number is growing.