Martinsburg, W.Va. – Six new community members were recently welcomed to the ranks of volunteers for children and youth in the Eastern Panhandle. Sworn in by The Honorable Judge Steven Redding, the new Court Appointed Special Advocates are community volunteers who ensure that children have a safe, permanent and caring home in which to live.

Each advocate is a community volunteer appointed to a case by a judge to provide a voice for a child who has been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. These community volunteers ensure that the child’s best interest remains front and center during court proceedings.

CASA-EP volunteers advocate for the child they represent in every facet of their life and make recommendations to the court to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. As a part of their advocacy, they get to know important adults in the life of the child they represent, such as their parents, foster parents, coaches, doctors, therapists and more.

An important part of being a CASA volunteer is remaining in frequent contact with teachers and school administrators to gain an understanding of a child’s unique strengths, challenges and needs. These interactions with the child’s school, combined with the volunteer’s relationship with the child, empower CASA volunteers to advocate in court for what a child needs to thrive academically.

Studies have shown that children with CASA volunteers do better in school. For youth and teens living in foster care, having a CASA volunteer means they are more likely to graduate from high school or earn a GED.

The Honorable Judge Steven Redding of the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit Court (right) swears in six new CASA-EP volunteers to provide a voice for vulnerable children in Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties. Appearing left to right, back row: Lorie Mullan, Allison Davenport, Dawn Bussard, Judge Redding. In front: Misty Jett, Jimmy Oates, Lori Kelly.

The support of a CASA volunteer often means that children spend less time in the foster care system and are less likely to reenter foster care. CASA volunteers work for reunification with the child’s parents as their primary goal whenever it is safe and possible to do so. When reunification is not an option, CASA volunteers advocate for the child to live with another relative, family friend or a loving adoptive family. Whatever the circumstances of the case may be, CASA volunteers work with the child’s caseworker, family and others to build lifelong, committed support systems that will last long after the case is closed.

“There isn’t another volunteer experience that matches what you’ll get with CASA,” said Michelle Sudduth, executive director of CASA-EP. “There is a human element that drives our volunteers to do their very best on behalf of the children and families we serve.”

Have you been looking for a lasting way to make a positive difference and pay it forward to your community? There’s no better time to become a CASA volunteer. CASA-EP volunteers are only able to serve less than half of the children and youth involved in cases before local courts. More volunteers are needed to support the hundreds of children in Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties waiting for an adult to be their voice.

An upcoming Virtual Open House is scheduled for September 16th at 5:30 p.m., as well as a Coffee with CASA Facebook Live event. These information sessions will help others connect with the CASA mission and find out how to change a child’s story in the Eastern Panhandle. Learn more or RSVP to one of these events by visiting www.mycasaep.org.