KINGWOOD — April will be child abuse prevention month in Preston County.
County commissioners unanimously proclaimed it so at their regular commission meeting Tuesday.
Child abuse is very prevalent in the area and spreading awareness is important, said Leah Turner, the recently hired volunteer coordinator for CASA for Kids, which also operates in Monongalia County.
“I noticed there hasn’t been a child abuse prevention proclamation completed since 2007. So I felt that it was absolutely necessary and important to receive your all’s support,” Turner told commissioners. “Also to show to our community that you all stand behind us and support us.”
Commissioner Dave Price said it’s unbelievable how many cases of child abuse there are.
“The judge was in yesterday to talk about the cases and his schedule because we needed to meet and do some things and discuss a few things and he reiterated the volume of abuse or neglect cases that he has before him all the time,” Price said. “It’s unbelievable. But how can it be?”
Price thanked CASA for what the organization does, which is oftentimes heart-wrenching.
Turner also said they are always in need of volunteers. There are over 100 cases involving kids and only six volunteers with active cases, she told The Dominion Post.
CASA stands for court appointed special advocate and their primary job is to be the eyes and ears of the court.
Turner said volunteers are required to meet their kid at least once a month and commit for at least a year. A case can take much longer than a year though – there are still active cases from 2016. A volunteer also needs to be at least 21 years old and be able to pass criminal and child protective services background checks.
The meeting with the child can be whatever they want from a trip to the restaurant to a game of basketball, Turner said. The meeting is a chance to talk to the kid or teen about their life, their needs and their wants.
Advocates provide a summary of the meeting to the court. They also meet with a child’s parents, teachers, principal and review documents such as school records, medical records and DHHR records.
Turner said advocates make recommendations on the child’s welfare to the court.
CASA volunteers aren’t allowed more than two cases at a time so they don’t get overwhelmed, Turner said. It also gives them more time to work with the children they are assigned.
Sometimes, the relationships built between volunteer and kid last beyond the life of the case but that is ultimately up to the child.