NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Going through the court system can be hard — especially for a child.
That’s why volunteers help, specifically for victims of abuse and neglect. Earlier this year, 10 On Your Side reported two child abuses cases that turned deadly in Norfolk.
Groups are working to stop that from happening.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (or CASA) serve as a voice for kids in the juvenile and domestic relations courts.
Judges appoint them to those victims to be their eyes and ears outside of the courthouse.
“You visit that child at least every other week to let them know they will not go through this by themselves,” said Roxie Hoven, the executive director for Norfolk CASA.
Hoven has worked with CASA for six years and says Norfolk CASA is one of the oldest programs in the state, being around for 30 years.
She’s seen its numbers double since she began and says there’s a waiting list for kids for the 50 active volunteers.
“It is climbing but we need more volunteers. The more cases we’re appointed, the longer our waiting list gets. Currently, we have 12 kids waiting for a CASA and we don’t have an advocate available because they’re serving 104 children right now,” she said.
To become a volunteer, you must apply and go through background checks and five weeks of training.
Volunteer coordinator Olivia Rasquiza says it can be hard emotionally but worth it.
“You get to know the children in your case so well. You build relationships with them. You see their strengths. You see where the system isn’t sometimes working for them. It pulls at your heart strings and you want to do everything you can for that child,” she said.
Rasquiza believes volunteering is life-changing and not just for those who need the help.
“If you’re thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer, just do it. Give us a call because it will change your life and the child’s life,” she said.
Hoven says it’s also re-affirming to the victims.
“When they can text,call, or look forward to a volunteer specifically for them and they know it, the know this is my voice and nobody else’s and know they work for free, that’s a lot of street cred. They’re like you’re here for me? Just because you care about me? That means everything for a kid who, a lot of kids don’t have people who have been there for them. So, it’s an amazing experience for the children to have them say someone will stay beside,” she said
It’s a support system Hoven hopes they won’t one day need.
“Our longterm goal is to end child abuse but until then, every child the judge has entrusted us to look after and do the best we can,” she said.
To apply to be a volunteer, you can visit the Norfolk CASA website or call their office at (757)664-7651.
There will also be an information session at Coast Coffee in Norfolk on July 31 at 6 p.m.