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Child advocacy group receives funding support

October 07, 2005|By TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Ann Harkins, executive director of CASA of the Eastern Panhandle, and Valerie Smith, its co-founder, asked the Morgan County Commission on Thursday for $2,500 to fund the 2006 program.

Harkins said CASA, or Court-Appointed Special Advocates, was established two years ago. Since then, CASA volunteers have helped 21 abused and neglected children in Morgan County. Harkins said the county has six volunteers, and two more will be trained by the first of the year.

Harkins said more volunteers are needed to serve more children who are removed from their homes because of sexual or physical abuse and neglect. CASA has trained 23 volunteers and helped more than 60 children in the Eastern Panhandle.

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CASA volunteers watch over and advocate for these children to make sure they don't get lost in the overburdened system, she said.

"We follow the kids to make sure they don't languish in the foster home," Smith said.

"The CASA volunteer sometimes is the only constant person involved in the child's life," Harkins said.

Glen Stotler, the commission president, said $2,000 was donated by the commission in July 2004.

Smith said 21 Morgan County children were served by CASA volunteers with the commission funds.

She said more than 109 child abuse and neglect cases were reported from Morgan County in 2004, and 21 children were removed from their homes.

"We ask for the funds appropriate to the number of children," Smith said.

Commissioner Tommy Swaim said, "I think it's important work you do."

The commissioners unanimously approved the $2,500 contribution.

Harkins said the main source of funding comes from a national CASA grant.

CASA of the Eastern Panhandle, based in Martinsburg, W.Va., serves Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

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