Volunteers give voice to abused, neglected children

An editorial from the Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -— Silence can’t be tolerated.

Abused and neglected children, way too often, don’t have the voice they need to make their lives better.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Marion County are committed to changing that situation.

The goal in the state is “to assure quality volunteer advocacy for every abused/neglected child in the West Virginia court system.”

The national volunteer movement began in 1977, when a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. The judge wanted the detailed information he needed to safeguard the children’s best interests and ensure that they were placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.

Getting committed, well-trained volunteers is critical for the success of CASA, and four Marion County residents joined the program last week. Charlotte Anderson, Donna Blaney, Tenille Wyer and Cheryl Wilmoth took their oaths in Marion Circuit Court Judge David R. Janes’ courtroom at the Marion County Courthouse.

Janes appreciates the work of the volunteers.

“You are the voice of the children,” he said. “I rely greatly on you all as well as the other witnesses in the process. I’m a firm believer that when everyone does their job and works independently, then all the pieces will come together.”

Kim Baker, director of CASA, knows how much volunteers are needed.

“There are cases waiting on CASA,” she said. “Unfortunately, in Marion County we do not have enough volunteers for all the cases on the court’s docket…”

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