Advocate program for vulnerable children expands to Somerset, Wicomico counties

Posted 7/4/22

SALISBURY — A court appointed special advocate (CASA) program serving children in the child welfare system in Worcester County has expanded to Somerset and Wicomico counties starting this …

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Advocate program for vulnerable children expands to Somerset, Wicomico counties

Posted

SALISBURY — A court appointed special advocate (CASA) program serving children in the child welfare system in Worcester County has expanded to Somerset and Wicomico counties starting this month.

The idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of children in court started with a judge in Seattle. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act.

A CASA volunteer is a caring adult appointed by the court to get to know the child and advocate for the child’s best interests. This volunteer offers another perspective to that of the professionals helping the child, e.g., social worker, attorney, and therapist(s).

“I have seen the need firsthand for a CASA program for our foster care children. Not only do children with CASA volunteers spend less time in foster care, they tend to perform better academically and behaviorally in school,” said First Circuit Administrative Judge S. James Sarbanes.

“We are partnering with the Life Crisis Center Inc., to act as the sponsoring organization for the tri-county program we envisioned. Executive Director Jamie Manning worked with Lower Shore CASA when she was a supervisor at the Department of Social Services so she is well-equipped to bring this plan to fruition.”

Lower Shore CASA began operating in Worcester and Wicomico counties in 2002, but in 2008 funding for the Wicomico County program was cut. The state court system provided $185,000 to restart Wicomico and begin a program in Somerset County, and on June 6 program officials received notice that National CASA had approved the expansion.

Somerset County Circuit Court Judge Daniel W. Powell said he sees a wide gap that needs to be filled for children involved in child welfare cases, and a CASA volunteer can “positively affect the overall health and well-being of these children, both now and into the future. The impact of COVID, the lack of social constructs and isolation has only made a CASA’s involvement even more imperative.”

Lower Shore CASA has office space in the circuit courts at Worcester and Wicomico counties. To learn more or to find out how to volunteer, email casa@lifecrisiscenter.org or call Lower Shore CASA director Jerrona Smith at 443-782-3585.