About CASA of Central Virginia
One hundred years ago, when the first Juvenile Court was established, these words were written over the entrances: Each Child Valued as our Own. If I could show you the faces of the children we serve, you might say, "Tthey look just like the children I know." And they do. What you wouldn't be able to see are the broken bones, shaken brains, and betrayal by their parents or caregivers. These are our children - yours and mine - and we must leave them a better legacy.
The nation's first CASA program was developed in Seattle, Washington in 1977 by David Soukup. As a Judge, David Soukup realized that he needed help in determining what was in the best interest of the children whose cases he had before him in court. He came up the idea of training volunteers to be advocates for abused and neglected children. Since then over 955 CASA programs have been established throughout the nation.
Judge Dale Harris helped to found a CASA program in Central Virginia in the summer of 1989 for the purpose of providing advocacy services to the abused and neglected children in Lynchburg and Amherst County. By 1991-1992 CASA volunteers were also in demand in Bedford County, Campbell County and Nelson County. CASA of Central Virginia was incorporated in January 1994 and received its status as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in August 1994. Its service area includes the entire 24th Judicial District. The 24th Judicial District is a 2,258 square mile area that includes the cities of Bedford and Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Bedford, Campbell and Nelson.
A CASA volunteer is a citizen who wants to help children in a dramatic way. It is no ordinary volunteer job. Our volunteers receive intensive screening and in-depth training about abused children and how to speak for them. CASAs are appointed by the court and are assigned to a child until that child is in a safe, permanent home. A CASA finds out everything about the child and is supervised by a staff member who guides the work and offers that human partnership needed in this emotionally gripping work. Armed with facts and the child's own words, the CASA is able to give an informed recommendation, and the child's own voice, to our Judges.
We don't have much time to help some of these children, but we do have some solutions. The sooner abused and neglected children are put into a safe, permanent home - whether an adoptive home or a return to their parents when it is safe to do so - the better the chances for the child to heal and not to replicate the harm on someone else. In this way, CASA helps stop the cycle of child abuse. At the same time, we can never forget that our job is to help children in the here and now.
CASA volunteers can't stop poverty or addiction and - saddest of all - they can't stop parents from abusing a child. But they do give the abused and neglected child hope for a better future, one with no beatings, no neglect, no mean words. We could allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by these problems and the misery of the children we see every day. We could say, "It is too hard to hear. There are so many children. The problem is too large."
But this work is not overwhelming when you know you have the power to change things for children, one by one. We believe in children who some see as "unsalvageable." In a variety of ways each person can help change the world for a child - while that child still believes someone cares. CASA of Central Virginia needs partners across the state who will add their voices to ours by supporting our work. We invite you to join us. The children - EACH VALUED AS OUR OWN - are waiting.
CASA of Central Virginia Receives National RecognitionThe CASA of Central Virginia program has been awarded certification by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association. This Certification recognizes that CASA of Central Virginia is in compliance with National CASA Association's high standards for quality child advocacy.
According to Michael Piraino, CEO of the National CASA Association, "The National CASA quality assurance process is very rigorous, and reflects our commitment to ensure that every child we serve has the most powerful volunteer advocate working on their behalf. This certification says CASA of Central Virginia has demonstrated to us a strong capacity to provide excellent services to the abused and neglected children within our community."
Call 434-528-2552 today for more information about CASA, our work and training schedule.