Lynchburg, VA- Court Appointed Special Advocates Central Virginia (CASA) says hundreds of children in our area go through the court systems each year with stories of abuse and neglect.
Right now there are 27 children on the waiting list for CASA and that number changes daily. But you can help. CASA is accepting volunteer applications and preparing for summer training so those children can get the help they deserve.
"Twenty-seven kids are going through a very traumatic experience and they need a CASA volunteer to advocate on their behalf," said Allison Wingfield who is the Executive Director of CASA.
Traumatic experiences that Allison Wingfield says can make it hard for her to check the fax machine. She never knows what scenario they'll have next. That's why the need for an advocate is so great. Each CASA volunteer is paired with only one child in need.
They are trained and supported by staff and visit their child at least twice a month. They also talk with all those involved in the child's life-- parents, teachers, and social workers.
Eventually they make recommendations to the judge about what's best for the child.
"They're often the only consistent person in that child's life," said Wingfield.
Here's part of an email from a woman who remembers the impact CASA had on her life as a child as they waited into the night for the judge to make a decision:
"The CASA volunteers not only kept us entertained and in light spirits as much as possible, but even brought us pizza when it became obvious no one was leaving anytime soon. I can't remember the names or even the faces, but the kindness shown to us is something I'll never forget."
"The most rewarding part is definitely working with the child, being that child's voice," said Debbie Bowman.
She has been a child's voice for four years now. She says at times it's very tough but then certain moments make it all worth it.
"The first time he came up and grabbed my knees and hugged me, that always is a special thing," said Bowman.
Volunteering is definitely a commitment, but a commitment they say is worth it.
"It can be overwhelming at times and it takes a special volunteer...not only is it rewarding, but you learn a lot, and you learn a lot about yourself," said Allan Jamison who is the Advocate Manager at CASA.
If you are interested in becoming a child's advocate CASA is offering one hour sessions this month where you can come learn about the requirements and duties of volunteering. If you decide to volunteer, you'll complete an application and do a background screening, and then they have a six week class that starts June 11th.
The deadline to apply for that is May 23rd. You can learn more here.