CASA of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) has recently been awarded a $37,000 Recruitment and Awareness grant to raise awareness for children who have faced abuse and neglect in the Eastern Panhandle.  The grant has been provided from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children. Funds will allow CASAEP to tailor a national public awareness campaign for local markets and to distribute the campaign.

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

 â€œOver 400 children are waiting for the support of an adult advocate to be their voice in the court system. We have 52 amazing advocates making a difference every day for children of our region, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We are thrilled to receive this outreach grant from National CASA. This one-time grant award is deeply needed at this time in the Eastern Panhandle,” said Michelle Sudduth, Executive Director of CASA-EP.

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. CASA-EP is 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. CASA programs across the nation are largely funded by VOCA state victim assistance grants and local donations.

“The number of impacted children is growing as we are facing both state and national opioid epidemics. A grant of this magnitude will help us reach diverse audiences and develop relationships which will help CASA-EP meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in our communities. Our most pressing need is for those willing to volunteer their time,” said Michelle Sudduth, Executive Director of CASA-EP.

The outreach funds help support a nationally developed campaign, “Change a Child’s StoryTM.” Stories are told from the point of view of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. The campaign encourages communities to act by connecting with the organization to learn more about child welfare advocacy and how they can get involved.

In West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, the campaign will run across the three counties served by CASA-EP. Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan County residents can expect to see more of this campaign in print, social media platforms, website, on billboards, radio stations, and elsewhere in the community.

CASA-EP staff are excited to hit the ground running. Director of Training and Development, Del Pope, said, “As a locally operated non-profit we’ve never had resources like this for a concentrated recruitment campaign. This grant will help CASA-EP spread our message and bring in the additional advocates we need to support the kids of our community. We’re growing and becoming a more dynamic organization. This grant is an essential piece of that.”

The federal outreach funds distributed through National CASA/GAL are provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, US Department of Justice, as authorized under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990. In 2019, National CASA was awarded nearly $10.7 million in federal grants to help support CASA programs nationwide.

A public open house for those interested in learning more about CASA-EP will be held on Jan. 28, 2020, from 3-6 p.m. at the CASA offices at 336 S. Queen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.  Event details can be found on the CASA of the Eastern Panhandle Facebook page.