CASA expanding in Fluvanna; needs volunteers

By Heather Michon

CASA, a child advocacy program that matches trained volunteers with children in foster care, is expanding into Fluvanna County,

Kate Duvall, president of Piedmont CASA in Charlottesville, gave a presentation on the program at July’s virtual meeting of the local progressive club, the Lefty Lunch Ladies.

CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate – is a national nonprofit that began back in 1985. Volunteers are trained to be advocates and are then assigned by juvenile court judges “to represent the best interests of the child in foster care” as they move through the system, Duvall explained.

Rather than just dealing with one aspect of foster care, “CASAs” are responsible for the big picture. They work with the child, the foster parents, biological parents, teachers, doctors, and lawyers to make sure the child is getting the best possible care, and to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. “We can see the forest for the trees, make those critical connections,” she said.

The ultimate goal of CASA is to make sure children are moving to “normalcy,” either back to their birth families or into permanent foster placements.

Studies have shown that children assigned CASA advocates spend less time in foster care than the state average.

Duvall said Piedmont CASA handles about 200 children annually, mostly in the Charlottesville- Albemarle area. She is working to expand the program throughout the 16th Judicial District, which includes Fluvanna. 

The county has about 20 children in foster care each year, with an average of one child or sibling group taken into care each month.

Volunteers need to be over 21, pass a background check, and take the program’s 42-hour training course. After that, they are sworn in by a judge to become an official CASA advocate. While there aren’t any specific requirements, Duvall said that good communication and organizational skills are helpful, and noted that volunteers do have to write reports for the court. 

The time commitments vary, but volunteers are asked to meet with their child at least once a month for 18 months. 

For those interested in learning more about the program, Duvall and her staff are holding an informational meeting at the Fluvanna County Library on Aug. 1 at noon. For Zoom-based information sessions and more information about the program, check out its website at .

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