From STAFF REPORTS
The Court Appointed Special Advocate program is recruiting volunteers to serve as advocates for children in Franklin and Pittsylvania counties.
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, educational backgrounds and professional careers.
“The role of a CASA is child advocacy,” said Joyce Moran, executive officer with Franklin County CASA. “While CASA volunteers have diverse life experiences, they all share the desire to make a positive difference in the life of a child.”
CASAs are trained community volunteers appointed by a judge to speak up for children who are involved in judicial proceedings related to abuse or neglect; or children in need of supervision or services.
CASA programs work to promote safe, permanent outcomes for the children they serve.
Franklin County’s program has served hundreds of children in its 26 years.
Currently, the program has 26 volunteers advocating for children in need, but there are still nine children waiting for an advocate to speak up for them, Moran said.
“Being a CASA is not like being a big brother or sister, or even a mentor,” Moran said. “It encompasses an ability to recognize need, analyze resources and communicate options and opportunities into a complex system response on behalf of the child.”
CASA training for the fall session began Sept. 20 at the Southern Virginia Child Advocacy Center at 300 S. Main St., Rocky Mount.
CASA volunteers must be 21 years of age, possess mature judgment and have the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, Moran said.
“Applicants must be able to interact with people, demonstrate objectivity and show attention to detail,” she added. “We are looking for individuals who have a sincere concern for the well-being of children.”
Applicants must participate in a comprehensive training curriculum and undergo extensive background checks. CASA staff will also solicit reference checks and conduct personal interviews.
Individuals accepted into the training will receive 40 hours of intensive instruction related to their volunteer duties and two additional hours of courtroom observation.
Once sworn in, new volunteers will be mentored by an experienced CASA volunteer for their first two cases. All CASA volunteers are asked to make an annual pledge of service, be willing to commit to five to 10 hours a month and be prepared to testify in court for hearings.
“CASAs work alongside a child’s attorney, monitor the case for compliance with the court’s orders and report their findings back to the court,” Moran said. “The court reports include case and family history, current family conditions, concerns and recommendations to ensure children remain safe and have permanent homes.”
All CASAs are mandated reporters of abuse and neglect.
For more information on CASA and its other service programs, visit www.southernvacac.org or call 484-5566.