HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — If you've ever wanted to volunteer with kids, becoming a child advocate in Henrico County might be the opportunity for you.
Henrico County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is looking for more volunteers to serve as child advocates.They've seen a 40% increase in the number of abused and neglected children needing their services over the past six months.
"During the pandemic, when many of us were staying home to be safe, these children were in families where staying home actually isolated them in an unsafe condition," explained Kristin Blalock, Henrico CASA Community Engagement Coordinator.
The nonprofit is holding two virtual volunteer information sessions this week to try to recruit 40 additional volunteers. The first is Wednesday at noon, and there's another being held Thursday at 7 p.m.
"You really don't need a certain type of background," said Blalock. "Sometimes people are intimidated, and they think they need to be an attorney or they need to have social service background, and that's really not the case. We have stay at home parents, we have full-time employees, we have retirees from all different backgrounds, and we provide the training, so you just have to have an interest in kids."
Volunteers go through about 40 hours of training, and then they will be assigned a child who they will meet with about 10 to 20 hours a month — either at school once a week or visiting their home to really build a relationship with that child.
Volunteers also get to know the other people in that child’s life, and then report all observations back to the court.
"You're being a constant, safe, calm presence in a child's life when their life is likely in a very chaotic place at that point in time," Blalock noted. "So that alone is important, but you're also bringing the court information that they wouldn't have otherwise."
Last year, with around 100 volunteers, Henrico CASA was able to help 385 kids. You can register for the sessions at henricocasa.org