CASA of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) is on a mission to make a big difference this year.

CASA of the Eastern Panhandle recently celebrated the swearing-in of new Advocate Supervisor Cari Lefeber, LSW. Lefeber joins CASA-EP with nearly eight years of experience working in child welfare, much of it as a foster care case manager. Employment included work with DHHR in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties as well as most recent involvement in services for the City of Winchester. Cari is very familiar with the work of CASA of the Eastern Panhandle and the critical need for advocacy within the child welfare and foster care systems.

CASA of the Eastern Panhandle recruits, trains and supports volunteers in the tri-county region who advocate in court for the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. They are one of over 950 national organizations and 45 state offices whose court advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.

“I have a deep desire to ‘help the helpers’ and this was a wonderful opportunity to continue the work I’ve been doing to serve children of our region. That experience has given me first-hand knowledge of the work involved and how CASA plays an essential role within the system and as an asset to judges,” Lefeber said. “Everyone has been so welcoming. The CASAEP team and volunteers have a deep enthusiasm to make a difference.”

Lefeber was sworn in earlier this month by Judge Steven Redding. In addition to case management, Lefeber will be working closely with staff on volunteer retention efforts under the new outreach grant, as well as some activities of grant administration of state VOCA funds.

Almost 200 children from Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan Counties had a volunteer advocating on their behalf in 2019, an increase of 16% over 2018, but many more children still need an advocate.

“The number of impacted children is growing as we are facing both state and national opioid epidemics. We have a phenomenal group of current advocates serving the children of the panhandle, but over 400 kids are still waiting for the support of someone to be their voice in the court system,” said Michelle Sudduth, Executive Director of CASA-EP. “The recent outreach grant award from National CASA, a strong board of directors and the addition of new team members are preparing us for a great year. We’re really ready to grow our impact for the most vulnerable children in the Eastern Panhandle,” said Sudduth.

CASAEP was awarded a national $37,000 Recruitment and Awareness grant to raise awareness for children who have faced abuse and neglect in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.  The grant has been provided from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children. Funds allow CASAEP to tailor a national public awareness campaign for local markets and to distribute the campaign with the goal of increasing the number of court advocates.

CASA staff look forward to coming developments and growth. Director of Training and Development, Del Pope, said, “Cari is a great addition to our team. We’re excited to bring on new volunteers and are exploring new training methods available through National CASA. We’re growing and becoming a more dynamic organization. All good things putting CASA-EP on an upward trajectory.”