Mission: Blue Ridge Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission is to advocate for abused and neglected children.
Community Need: Children who have been victims of abuse and neglect have suffered trauma that requires extended attention and services which they don’t always receive. The child welfare system (social workers, judges, and lawyers) that is legally responsible for their protection and wellbeing is overwhelmed by a high number of cases. In the area, there are approximately 150 children in foster care at any given time due to abuse and/or neglect. All of these children are living below 125% of the poverty line. While in the foster care system, many children continue to become victims of abuse and neglect.
All children in foster care have been exposed to some form of trauma. Child trauma occurs when children and adolescents are exposed to events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope and interfere with daily life and their ability to function and interact with others. The very act of being placed in foster care is traumatic for children because it means the loss of their birth family and often friends, schoolmates, teachers, and everything that is familiar to them. Children who have experienced trauma—especially ongoing trauma—may have developed unhealthy habits and behaviors, including increased aggression and distrusting or disobeying adults. These behaviors may have helped protect the children from neglect or abuse in the past and may be strongly rooted. It takes take time, patience, and often therapeutic support to address and overcome them.
Constituents Served: Blue Ridge CASA serves children up to the age of 18, who have been victims of abuse and neglect in the areas of Staunton, Augusta, Waynesboro, Rockbridge, Lexington, Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham. Sometimes, the Juvenile Judge allows Blue Ridge CASA to serve a young person until she/he becomes 21 years old. During the last completed fiscal year, Blue Ridge CASA served 121 children in the area between the ages of 0 to 21: 0-5 (44); 6-11 (46); 12-15 (18); 16-17 (9); 18+ (4).
Primary Activities: When a child or youth is thought to be a victim of abuse or neglect, they become protected by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR). The JDR judge assigns a CASA volunteer to the case of the child/youth. The volunteer’s roles is to be a stable adult figure for the child. They devote time developing a bond with the child during the 12 to 18 months duration of the case. CASA volunteers facilitate communication between the child welfare system’s professionals, allowing for services to be timely and accurately based on the child’s needs. CASA volunteers monitor the orders given by the court to parents or caretakers, aimed at improving the living conditions, suitability, and safety of the child at home. CASA volunteers also advocate for the child in school systems and the community by communicating with teachers, counselors, social workers and other professionals on the case of the child. One central product of a volunteer’s advocacy is their Court Report, which is prepared for every hearing on the child’s case. Their Court Report is independently researched and fact-based. It includes information on the mental, educational, physical, and emotional health of the parents and their child during, before, and after the case has closed and the child is in foster care.
Amount Requested: $10,000
Operating Budget: $299,756