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Norfolk CASA in need of volunteers to be a voice for children in court

Norfolk CASA members are urging more people to volunteer as court cases rise.

NORFOLK, Va. — There's a growing need for people to help children who are going through the court system. 

Members of Norfolk CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, said cases involving abused or neglected kids are on the rise.

On Tuesday, the group is hosting an information session that will explain how the public could get involved. 

A special advocate focuses on helping children through a difficult time, regularly investigating their conditions, and making sure their voices are heard and best interests are served in court. 

According to the Norfolk CASA website, children with these volunteers are more likely to be adopted, half as likely to re-enter foster care and substantially less likely to need long-term foster care.

“When a child becomes court-involved and is placed in foster care, in a lot of cases, they’re becoming involved in that way because they’ve been the victim of either abuse or neglect," said Norfolk CASA Lead Advocate Manager Samantha Cutshall. 

Cutshall said when the pandemic started, the number of court cases went down.

“I think that what we’ve actually seen during COVID is that there was a decline in the number of children being reported, or cases of abuse and neglect being reported," said Cutshall. 

But, now that COVID-19 cases are going down, the need for more Norfolk CASA volunteers has been growing.

“The cases are coming before the court again. The cases, because of that, are being assigned to CASA volunteers again," Cutshall explained. "We’ve seen an uptick, but I think if anything, it’s because we’re finding some new state of normal and new kind of routine in this COVID world."

Cutshall said 14 children are currently on the waitlist to have a Norfolk CASA volunteer. She said what those volunteers do is crucial. 

“You know when a judge might be making really big decisions that are going to impact this child and their family, perhaps for a long time ahead. What a CASA volunteer is able to do is to make sure that judge really knows how that child doing," Cutshall said. 

She hopes the organization can get about 15 new CASA members to sign up before training starts on March 8.

For more information about Norfolk CASA, or to learn how to become an advocate, click here

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