CASA Comes to Calhoun County

According to Alison Gerlach, Calhoun County foster children will now have a voice in court.

Western Regional Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is now in the county.

CASA includes volunteers who have been appointed by the court to advocate for children who have been removed from their parents due to allegations of abuse and neglect.

Gerlach, volunteer supervisor for Jackson, Roane and Calhoun counties, said, “The need for CASA volunteers is greater than ever. Children are the true victims of the drug epidemic and we are seeing increasing numbers of children in the foster care system every year.”

CASA volunteers can come from any walk of life, but must be at least 21. Volunteers are screened and trained by CASA staff, and then sworn in by the court with the oath of confidentiality.

Once the application and training process is complete, CASA volun-teers usually spend 5-7 hours per month working with children, attending court hearings and other meetings, and writing reports to the court.

“Those reports allow the CASA to communi-cate with the court, making recommendations about the child’s best interest, while maintaining confidentiality for the child. In essence, the CASA volunteer is giving a voice to a child,” said Gerlach

Western Regional CASA will have an informational meeting for anyone interested in becoming a CASA volun-teer on Tuesday, Oct. 2, noon, at Calhoun County Library.

CASA staff will be on hand to explain more about CASA, volunteer duties, confidentiality, and the process of becoming a CASA volunteer. They will also be able to answer any questions at that time. All are welcome to attend.

“Children benefit greatly from having a CASA volunteer on their case and in their corner,” said Gerlach. “Children with CASA volunteers are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system and more likely to have the necessary services ordered to help them.

“They are more likely to pass all courses in school and less likely to change foster home placements. In short, these children are getting more help, more attention, and more assistance, but without additional time of CPS workers or lawyers.”

CASA was started in 1977 by a judge in Seattle, Wash., who saw a need for the children in his court to have a greater voice.

Western Regional CASA, which began in 1991, making it the oldest CASA in West Virginia, serves 10 counties: Cal-houn, Jackson, Roane, Kanawha, Mason, Putnam, Boone, Lincoln, Cabell and Wayne counties.

For information about becoming a CASA volun-teer, contact Gerlach, 693-2291, ext. 1, or