Upon reaching the first-year anniversary of CASA of Central Virginia serving in Appomattox County, CASA Advocate Manager Christy Horsley said she’s encouraged by the work done over the last year and is looking forward to the future of the organization in the county.

CASA stands for “court appointed special advocate.” Horsley’s role entails supporting, and advising, the individual advocates that are plugged into cases. She’s also the initial point of contact between a CASA and the court system. It’s up to her to match up a case with a CASA volunteer.

“What I tell parents and families is CASA’s job is to be a sponge and soak up everything there is to know about your child,” explained Horsley. “... and then give it back to the judge in the form of a court report so we can make recommendations about where the child should live long term, but also just recommendations about the child’s best interest overall ...”

Everything about the child is collected by the CASA worker, then written into a court report which helps advocate for what the child needs.

Abuse and neglect petitions are primarily the types of cases that the CASA will work. These cases often come in two forms — one being a foster care case where there was an urgent situation of abuse and neglect. The other is a protective order case where the court system or the Department of Social Services is concerned about a child.

In this latter situation, the child may potentially be in a damaging scenario. The code of Virginia also allows CASAs to work with CHINS petitions — Child in Need of Services/Supervision.

The CASA comes before the judge as an expert on the specific child that they are advocating for. 

“We’ve done the work to get to know the child. And that really is the value of CASA —  that we bring a sort of common sense, like a ‘man on the street, concerned citizen’ approach to the case as a separate set of eyes and ears,” said Horsely.

In regard to CASA of Central Virginia’s first year in Appomattox, Horsley said Shannon Beasley was originally at the helm as volunteer advocate manager of the Appomattox branch of the organization.

 It was Beasley who set up the CASA office at the county’s administration building and laid down the initial groundwork and connections for the organization in the county.

There are many CASA volunteers, one being Kandel Berry, who lives in Appomattox County.

“My goal as a CASA is to be a voice for the children, eyes and ears for the court, and a truth seeker for all involved,” said Berry.

Berry explained that these children suffer loss, sometimes even losing themselves through the trauma.

“As a CASA, we try to encourage and give hope to these children and let them know through our actions that they have worth and a purpose,” said Berry.

She said just as each child is unique, so is each case. Currently, Berry works three active cases.

“What I truly enjoy in my role as a CASA is the ability to pour myself into the lives of these children to let them know ‘I care about you, just because you’re you — no strings attached.’”