Western Regional CASA is looking for volunteers to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Court Appointed Special Advocates are 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.

Western Regional CASA is having two informational meetings for anyone interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, said Alison Gerlach, CASA spokeswoman.

The Ripley meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 9, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Ripley branch of the Jackson County Library. The Ravenswood meeting will be on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 6-8 p.m. at the Ravenswood branch of the Jackson County Library.

Western Regional 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, Gerlach 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 years old.

Gerlach said 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 volunteers usually spend 5 to 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 communicate 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 the child, Gerlach said.

Children benefit greatly from having a CASA volunteer on their case and in their corner. 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 the additional time of CPS workers and lawyers.

CASA was started in 1977 by a judge in Seattle, Washington, who saw a need for the children in his court to have a greater voice. Jackson County is serviced by Western Regional CASA, which began in 1991, making it the oldest CASA program in West Virginia.

Western Regional CASA serves ten counties currently, including Jackson, Roane, Mason, Kanawha, Calhoun, Putnam, Boone, Lincoln, Cabell, and Wayne Counties.