Henrico County’s CASA program will hold an informational meeting for prospective volunteers on Monday, August 27.
CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate”. About 100 of these volunteers currently serve the county. According to CASA Program Manager Jeannine Panzera, the mission is simple. “We advocate for children who are before the court due to allegations of abuse or neglect.”
Last year CASA helped 333 children in the legal system. CASA volunteers are important because they survey a family’s situation in ways Guardians Ad Litem and social workers cannot, then, write recommendations a judge can use in the disposition of a case. Panzera notes, “Oftentimes these kids are in really dire at-risk situations. They’re not getting the care that they need. They may not be getting the food, they may not have shelter or medical care, they’re experiencing significant abuse or trauma.”
CASA welcomes all volunteers but applicants are screened and submit to background checks and fingerprinting. They receive 40 hours of training from CASA staff, then support with cases in process.
The non-profit lists the volunteer commitment as 10 to 20 hours per month, but many CASA volunteers report longer periods in service. Each child’s case is different.
CASA requires volunteers to serve for a minimum of one year, most serve close to five. Susan Tellier’s been a CASA volunteer for 20 years.
She loves the work. “Once you do it you kinda have a hard time walking away from it.”
For Susan, it’s all about building strong relationships. “Very important relationships. And so that allows us not just to make an impact on the child but also on the family as a whole. And that’s goal really–is to help families stay together and nurture and move forward and be healthy and happy.”
Monday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the CASA offices in suite A of the Hungary Spring Office Park, 3001 Hungary Spring Road.
To reserve a seat, contact Rebecca Kalman-Winston at (804) 501-1670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 14-session training program for new volunteers begins Saturday, Sept. 22.
The classes will be followed by a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the Henrico Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Prospective volunteers must apply by Friday, Sept. 7, be at least 21 years old, have regular access to a computer and attend all training sessions.
Anyone interested in applying but unable to attend the information session is asked to contact Jeannine Panzera at (804) 501-1673 or email@example.com. For an application or more information, go to henricocasa.org.