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Making sure children are in a safe, permanent home is the mission of CASA of Central Virginia. Photo courtesy of CASA
Friday, August 16, 2013
This is the fifth in a series of stories profiling charities that will benefit from the SML Charity Home Tour, which will be held Oct. 11-13.
“The ache for a home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are.”
— Maya Angelou, American author and poet
Nicole, a blond-haired, blue-eyed 9-year-old, lies in the school nurse’s office wondering why she does not feel well enough to play outside during recess. Her friends are used to her not being on the jungle gym with them and think nothing of it . The young girl knows she has Type 2 diabetes but does not realize her parents are not giving her adequate medical care for the disease.
After many hospitalizations and not receiving medication when needed, Nicole is removed from her home and placed with foster parents. As directed by a court order, a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer is appointed to serve as the court’s eyes and ears for Nicole’s case. The advocate learns what care Nicole needs for her diabetes by researching the disease and talking to medical professionals. After investigating and working with Nicole’s case, the CASA volunteer helps Nicole find a permanent home with an aunt who will care for her.
The main goal of the CASA program is to help get abused or neglected children into a safe, permanent home as soon as possible. Through recruitment, training and support, CASA of Central Virginia Inc. molds volunteers into Court Appointed Special Advocates to represent in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court the children going through proceedings in the 24th Judicial District of Virginia, which includes Bedford and Lynchburg.
The volunteers are appointed by a Juvenile and Domestic Court judge. In addition to advocating for the child until the case is resolved, they investigate each child’s situation and submit reports to the court. They also monitor the case to ensure the child receives the services ordered by the court, aid the Guardian ad litem (who acts as the child’s attorney in court) and serve as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.
CASA was established in 1977 by Judge David Soukup of Seattle on the principle that every child has a right to a safe, permanent home and that a trained volunteer can help achieve that outcome. CASA programs were introduced in Virginia in 1989, and in 1990, the training program for Lynchburg and Amherst Coun ty inducted its first volunteers. By 1991, additional volunteers had been trained, and the name was changed to CASA of Central Virginia. In 1994, the program was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since the CASA program was implemented in 1990, more than 450 CASA volunteers have helped more than 3,500 victims of neglect and abuse.
CASA volunteers are supervised by advocate managers who oversee 25 to 30 volunteers in an area. Angela Mayfield is the full-time advocate manger in the Bedford office, which handles 35 percent to 40 percent of the cases that CASA of Central Virginia receives per year.
“What’s different about CASA is that the volunteers provide personal, sustained attention to each child,” said Jane Francis, executive director for CASA of Central Virginia. “In order for the volunteers to be aware of the mental, emotional and physical health issues associated with each child, the volunteers can handle only two cases at a time. Low caseloads enable a more detailed knowledge of each child’s circumstances.”
CASA volunteers meet with the children at least twice a month. They also are allowed to enter the child’s residence to obtain first hand knowledge of the home environment.
Leslie J. “Sandy” Morrissett, a long-time volunteer from Moneta, said he finds great joy in being an advocate. He said he knows he has made a difference with “the emergence of a child’s smile, a laugh, confidence in the comfort of a safe, secure and permanent home where none existed before; where only broken dreams, shattered spirit and pain resided for so long.”
CASA funding comes from the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the United Way of Central Virginia, local governments, grants, donations and special events, such as the Ladies Night Out shoe sale held in the spring.
Morrissett is one of the approximately 100 CASA volunteers who work with a team to get children placed in safe, permanent homes as soon as possible. He also is serving as a traffic captain for the home being staffed by CASA during the 2013 SML Charity Home Tour. CASA and seven other charities will benefit from the tour.
For more information about CASA, call 434-485-7260 or visit www.cvcasa.org.
For more information about the home tour, including a list of charities, sponsors and ticket information, visit www.smlcharityhometour.com.
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