Community Spotlight: Blue Ridge CASA for Children

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:16 AM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Between June of 2020 and July of 2021, there were 2,400 reports of child abuse to the Department of Social Services between the Harrisonburg area and Augusta County.

One local organization focuses on advocacy for children who have experienced abuse or neglect and helps them find a form of stability, one child and one volunteer at a time.

“We go out, we recruit people, we give them the training and then those volunteer advocates make sure that the abused and neglected children they’re advocating for have all the services they need and ultimately find a safe, permanent loving home,” Blue Ridge CASA for Children’s Program Engagement Manager Maggie Dodson said.

The volunteers are called CASA’s or Court Appointed Special Advocates, and Dodson says each year the need for them grows larger.

“We’ve actually just been asked by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court judge in Staunton to take on additional types of cases. Children who need supervision or maybe haven’t quite experienced abuse or neglect yet but there’s a concern that something like that is on the way,” Dodson explained.

She says kids who are paired with a CASA have a 50% less chance to enter the foster care system and have a better opportunity to receive care.

“That includes things like counseling and mental health services as well as physical health services,” Dodson said.

Of the 96 children in foster care in the area last year, just 38 had a CASA, and on top of volunteers, monetary donations are also a major need.

“It takes a thousand dollars to train one CASA volunteer advocate, and it takes $2,500 to serve a CASA child for an entire year,” Dodson said.

Dodson says the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year is coming up, the Firebolt 5K, as part of the Queen City Mischief and Magic event in Staunton which runs September 24th through the 25th.

If you would like to apply to become a CASA, or help out in a different way, you can find out how by visiting the BRCFC website.