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GIVE LOCAL 757: Norfolk CASA

Norfolk Court Appointed Special Advocates give a voice to some of the people who need it most -- kids who have been abused, neglected, or end up in foster care.

NORFOLK, Va. — A group of volunteers is fighting for some of the most vulnerable residents in Hampton Roads. 

Since 1986, Norfolk Court Appointed Special Advocates, or Norfolk CASA, has advocated for abused and neglected children in the city.

"We work with children specifically who are involved with the Norfolk courts due to abuse and neglect," said Lead Advocate Manager Samantha Cutshall. "Oftentimes, it's families who are in a moment of big struggle."

Volunteer advocates are paired with children, and work to make connections with them. 

"We do train our volunteers to know about trauma and how that affects children and the types of scenarios they might encounter," Cutshall said.

Outreach Assistant Marissa Adams was in foster care as a child, and joined the organization after learning more about it. 

"I never knew that this kind of organization existed, and how wonderful it is to give children a voice, to give them an extra person that can speak on their behalf," Adams said.

Volunteers also investigate their child's case and submit information to judges on behalf of the child.

"We are there to advocate for the kids in court, yes," said Cutshall. "But I would say a huge part of our role is really getting to know that child and just being a person that is there for them."

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

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers adapted to challenges to maintain relationships with children. 

"We do play games and sing songs, and when things were virtual, we did the TikTok dances," Cutshall said.

The nonprofit's goal is for every child to feel safe, have stability, and be successful. 

"Maintaining that sense of hope, that sense of, you know, 'Better is coming', you know, and 'Better is here', and 'You can do this, and I'm here with you' is a really big part, I think, of the volunteer experience," Cutshall said.

"We enjoy the time with the children, we bond with those children," Adams agreed. "But we also know and come in and expect to do what we need to do so that the child's best interest is served, in whatever capacity that looks like."

The group's next volunteer training happens this fall. If you'd like to make a difference in the life of a child who may have been abused or neglected, sign up at Norfolk CASA's website.

It costs just under $100 a month to place an advocate with a child in need. You can help Norfolk CASA and nearly 200 other local nonprofits that give so much to our area. 

Donate now through Give Local 757 Day, May 10.

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