Henrico advocacy group needs volunteers for abused, neglected kids

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Henrico CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, needs your help now more than ever.

More and more kids are heading into the court system after being involved in abused and neglected homes. More cases are popping up everyday and now is the time to make a difference in a child's life.

Hundreds of kids walk through these doors at the juvenile court building each year. Some of them are from abused and neglected home. But, you can help turn someone's life around.

The need now is greater than it's ever been. More than 300 abused and neglected children in Henrico County need people like you to listen and be their voice in court.

"it's very difficult to know there are so many children in Henrico County that are hurting every single day in their homes without parents, when they should be able to trust and support them," says Executive Director of CASA, Barbara Herzog.

That's where CASA comes in, standing for court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected kids. All you have to do is apply between now and March 31, then get 32 hours of training to get to know the basics about child abuse and the court system.

"They can expect to come here for six weeks on Monday and Wednesday nights to get a great foundation to support a child," adds Herzog.

Then, you meet with that child once a week, talk to them, get to know them. Eventually you'll write a report for a judge on what that child needs.

Take it from a volunteer herself, sponsoring a child who is from an abused or neglected home can be summed up in one word: rewarding.

Years ago, Barbara Herzog decided to make a difference. "I was thinking this sounds exciting this is great! I want to be able to make a difference for a child," adds Herzog.

At first, the amount of work: writing reports, going through 32 hours of training, meeting with a child in need many times, sounded like a daunting task.

"The first time you go and sit down in a child's living room, and you start asking them questions about their personal life, it is very difficult," says Herzog.

But then, after getting to know the child in need and representing them in court "and he (the Judge) said, I would like to order the following and it was all the recommendations I made," says Herzog, the reward shined through. In fact, it went so well, Herzog is now the executive director of the program.

"It's a commitment beyond showing up for school to read a book or something like that. This is a commitment to visit a child on a weekly bases and getting to know everything about them," says Herzog.

Right now the need is greater than ever. This week alone, six cases fell on Herzog's desk. She says the number is growing because of the economy: services are being cut and a lack of money leaves parents with no options for getting help.

The scariest part is some of the abused and neglected kids end up behind bars, getting in trouble on the street.

So this is where your voice comes in. "99.99 percent of the time, they say 'Thank You.' You're the only one in the system who knew exactly what the child needed," adds Herzog.

Better yet, getting involved does not take any special talents, other than being yourself. "Good common sense. You need to be able to walk into a situation, talk to them and get to know them."

We have more information on the program, how you can get involved and the training information under All Access.

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