CASA of Marion County come to FSU

Court+Appointed+Special+Advocates+%28CASA%29+of+Marion+Count

WV Times

Anna Cronin, Executive Editor

On October 16, 2019, Vesna Meinert, Executive Director of Marion County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA), presented the purpose of CASA to Fairmont State University students and faculty. Meinert has been involved in CASA for over a decade because CASA “means that an everyday community member has the ability to effect change for an abused and neglected child.”

CASA volunteers advocate for the health, wellness and safe placement of children in the foster care system. Unfortunately, many of these children have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) within their home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ACEs have been linked to an increased risk of chronic health conditions, engagement in risky behaviors and early death. While in foster care, the average child moves to at least three different homes and attends nine different schools by the age of 18. In an unstable environment, a CASA volunteer has a singular focus to support the child’s needs and interests.

As the civil child abuse and neglect cases continue to rise in West Virginia, the child welfare system remains overburdened. In 2017, the CDC published a statistic that ranked West Virginia as having the highest number of deaths due to drug overdose in the United States. Given that drug misuse significantly impacts childcare, this statistic is alarming. According to Meinert, “Over 90% of child abuse and neglect petitions involve drug use by the parents, which impacts their ability to care for their children.”

Knowing this, the vision of Marion County’s CASA is that “Every child victim of abuse and neglect who enters the foster care system has someone to stand up for them, to be their voice, and to ensure they don’t get lost in an overburdened child welfare system.”

Anyone 21 years or older can apply to become a CASA volunteer. All volunteers must be interviewed, pass a background screening and complete 30 hours of pre-service training. Given that the civil cases can last a year, CASA of Marion County asks that each volunteer commit to 1 year of service. Meinert emphasized that the skills associated with a great volunteer and staff member are “commitment, focus, objectivity, and heart!”

If you are interested in volunteering, call (304) 366-4198 or email [email protected]

For more information about ACEs or substance misuse, visit https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html or https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/aboutace.html