CASA lends a hand during Child Abuse Prevention Month

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — One program is geared toward making sure children in the court system get the justice they deserve and don’t fall through the cracks.

Eyewitness News talked with members and volunteers about this program and how to get involved.

“Court Appointed Special Advocates is what CASA stands for, began with a judge in the state of Washington who felt that he was making too important decisions in the lives of abused and neglected children with insufficient information,” Susquehanna Valley CASA board president Corey Mowrey said.

Many children going through the court system struggle to have their voices heard. The Susquehanna Valley CASA Program is a way for them to get more individual support.

Case manager, Louise Campanna knows the issues better than most. She’s a former volunteer with CASA and retired teacher, says she’s always been passionate about helping children.

“There were kids in my classroom who I knew they were being abused and were not being taken care of. They were being abused and neglected but I had no proof, I had no avenue. CASA now gives me an avenue,” Campanna said.

CASA are volunteers that go through 30 hours of training before they’re assigned a case with a child or children.

“We will talk to them about the cases and will assign them together and they get appointed by the courts,” Susquehanna Valley CASA executive director Tammy Sempko said.

From there, the volunteer works with the child throughout the entire case. They spend time together and ensure their voices are heard in court.

“I’m the one who has the time to do that. The other services have big caseloads and are spread kind of thin, so I’m going to pay attention to that child,” Susquehanna Valley CASA volunteer Rebecca Elkins said.

Voluneer Nancy Penfield says it’s hard to work with children that have faced so much trauma, but watching their growth makes it all worth it.

“When I started to see a light shining in the child, that maybe they were working their way through and were going to get out the other side of the darkness that they’re in,” Penfield said.

CASA says they’ve had an increase in cases since the pandemic started and are always in need of more volunteers. To learn more, visit www.susquehannavalley/casa.com or the 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride Facebook page.

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