Summer crash course available for CASA volunteers | Journal-news

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MARTINSBURG — CASA of the Eastern Panhandle will provide an intensive crash course to encourage community members to make a difference in the lives of children.

The four-day, in-person training course will be held August 8-11 and is designed to help new CASA defenders complete their training in just a few days.

CASA volunteers help vulnerable children in the community by advocating for the best interests of the child in court, at home and in the community. Volunteers help children and youth receive the services and support they need throughout the year.

Although reunification is the top priority and ultimate goal for all children, when that is not possible, a CASA volunteer is there to help determine the best situation in which the children can thrive. Volunteers ensure that children are not moved from placement to placement, that they spend as little time as possible in out-of-home placement before achieving permanency either with their biological family or through adoption.

As objective spokespersons for the child, CASA volunteers assist in the legal process while being a consistent and caring presence in the child’s life.

“This crash course is ideal for those who wanted to help but didn’t have the time,” said Cari Lefeber, CASA-EP’s program director. “Summer is the perfect time for us to offer this intensive face-to-face training and get people up to speed quickly.”

Often in the summer, which should be a time of sun, swimming, ice cream and beach trips, the weather for CASA kids is often scary, chaotic or unpredictable. In summer, these children often have less contact with people outside the home and the presence of a CASA volunteer, present all year round, becomes even more important for the safety and stability of the child.

“The Summer Crash Course is ideal for teachers, retirees, and others with flexible summer schedules or extra vacation days,” Lefeber said. “It also helps to ensure that the children have someone in their corner as they prepare to return to school in the fall.”

Summer volunteering can encompass connecting with children and youth with summer camp scholarship options that would otherwise be unaffordable. It may also mean reading to children during visits to help them prevent the “summer slide” of skills learned in their last school year. Often volunteers do something as simple as attending a parade or visiting an ice cream shop to create memories.

“Last year in the Eastern Panhandle, more than 600 children were living in out-of-home placements because their homes were no longer safe,” Lefeber said.

“It is incredibly satisfying to know that you have been able to make a difference for a child, to observe and witness their life, but also to go to court and express their needs and desires to the judge. I know my support is having an impact,” shared a CASA volunteer.

An application, references, background check and interview must be completed, along with 36 hours of training, before taking an active case in the court system as a CASA volunteer.

“CASA-EP’s goal is to remain flexible and adaptable for our volunteers, which is why we have so many training options available,” Lefeber said.

The four-day crash course will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 8-11 and will be held at CASA-EP’s main office on Mid-Atlantic Parkway.

CASA-EP believes that every child who has been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate who defends their best interests in court, in school and in the community. To do this, CASA-EP educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure that the needs of every child remain a priority in an overburdened child welfare system.

Apply, donate or learn more at www.mycasaep.org, call 304-263-5100 or find CASA of the Eastern Panhandle on Facebook.

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