Hanover County’s newest class of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) was sworn in by Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Shannon O. Hoehl on October 14.
The newest CASA members are Ben Baughan, Matt Bley, Kendra Heimerich, Wanda Martin and Christine Stilwell.
CASA volunteers advocate for the interests of abused and neglected children who are involved in cases being heard by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Last year, 29 children were served by volunteers who contributed nearly 1,027 hours of service to the youth served by the program.
“I am so grateful to you,” Judge Hoehl told the graduates. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be able to read your reports. You perhaps know these children better than anyone else. The CASA report is the one I rely on the most.”
The volunteers were also thanked by Jim Taylor, Deputy County Administrator, and Melanie Baker, CASA program coordinator.
“Not only did these volunteers come forward to serve our most vulnerable population, they showed up during a global pandemic!” Baker said. “In addition to learning about the history of our laws as they pertain to abuse and neglect, child welfare, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, inequities that exist within systems, adverse childhood experiences, conflict resolution, interviewing skills, how to write court reports, etc. they also had to learn how to navigate both Google Classroom and Zoom.”
“They showed up every week for three hours at a time as well as two all day Saturday trainings for approximately 40 hours to become Court Appointed Special Advocates,” Baker said. “They learned about the Department of Social Services from Matt Eakin, the Children’s Services Act from Julie Dubee, the role of the Guardian ad Litem from Linda Scott, what it is like to be a CASA volunteer from Andrea Jones and services available at the Hanover Community Services Board from Lindy Collins and Ashley Hazelgrove. Through all of the training all five of these citizens showed patience, understanding, flexibility, dedication, concern, and a willingness to learn – all great qualities for a Court Appointed Special Advocate!”
“Hanover CASA exists to be a voice for abused and neglected children in court, to educate the community on child welfare issues, and to advocate for safe and permanent homes for all children,” Taylor said. “I, along with County Administrator John Budesky as well as the Board of Supervisors, support and endorse the Hanover County CASA Program. Congratulations to our new CASA training class on their achievement and their dedication to the children of Hanover County.”
For more information about Hanover’s CASA program, please call Melanie Baker, Coordinator, at 365-4296 or e-mail her at [email protected]. The CASA program is part of the Department of Community Resources.