Eastern panhandle CASA — court appointed special advocates — important to helping children at risk

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — It’s a tragic situation across West Virginia: abused and neglected children on the radar of the court system. But in the state’s eastern panhandle, volunteers are making a positive difference.

There is a team of experts helping West Virginia’s most vulnerable children. The group is called CASA: court-appointed special advocates. When there is no home structure for children in the most unfortunate of circumstances, volunteers give these kids hope.

Delbert Poe is director for training & development at the eastern panhandle CASA. Poe said, “We help these children walk through the court system but have someone who is constant and consistent and always there for them.”

These volunteers are an important support through the judicial branch; just ask CASA executive director Michelle Sudduth how impactful these volunteers are.

“I’ve heard CASAs walk people down the aisle when they get married,” Sudduth said. “They show up for their college and even law school graduations. And they really become a part of the kid’s life.”

Cari Lefeber is a volunteer supervisor and explained that the 35-hour process to place a volunteer with a child in the CASA system involves “what to expect in the court process, how to work with families who are experiencing mental illness, substance abuse disorders and how to identify domestic violence.”

Melodie Stotler spends most of her time in Morgan County and focuses on substance abuse problems that may impact the child. She said, “Ee develop a relationship with the children, so I look at it as a mentorship. So where we are the voice for the child in the court to the judge. We are also mentoring these children.”

CASA invites West Virginians everywhere to help a child thrive. While these volunteers are helping children in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, residents of neighboring states like Maryland and Virginia are invited to be volunteers as well.

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