WELLSBURG - Strong wind blew over a few of the luminaria lining the Wellsburg Town Square Thursday night, but it didn't dim the spirits of leaders of A Child's Place Court-appointed Special Advocate, volunteers and community members who turned out to remember Child Abuse Prevention Month.
A total of 350 candles, each representing a child assisted by A Child's Place CASA since it was formed in 2000, were lit along the square for a candlelight vigil dubbed the Light of Hope.
Among those attending were volunteers trained to represent the interests of children in cases of abuse or neglect in Brooke and Hancock counties. The volunteers gather information about the children's home life in an effort to help court officials determine the children's future.
AIDING CHILDREN — Josh Bennett, left, and Austin Grant were among members of Boy Scout Troop 57 of Colliers who assisted leaders and volunteers with A Child’s Place Court-Appointed Special Advocate program in setting up 350 luminaria on the Wellsburg Town Square Thursday for a candlelight vigil held in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Each luminaria represented a child assisted by A Child’s Place CASA since it was begun in 2000. -- Warren Scott
"It's rewarding to make sure the children are being cared for, whether they are in foster homes or with their own families," said Carrie Bennett of Colliers, who has been an advocate since last fall.
Stubbs noted that sometimes the children remain with their parents or guardians, provided the caretakers undergo drug abuse counseling or meet other court-ordered conditions. Sometimes the children are moved to new homes in which a judge and other officials believe they will receive better care, she said.
Bennett noted the volunteers aren't the ones who make that decision.
"You just have to make sure they (families of foster homes) are following what the court calls the family plan because the social workers have so many cases," she said.
Stubbs said A Child's Place CASA is assisting 61 children at this time, with advocates needed for nine others. She and Jennifer Reitter, coordinator of volunteers, fill in for those children as they can.
Stubbs said CASA volunteers come from various walks of life and don't require specific experience. Most important is the ability to be objective. She said child abuse and neglect tend to be carried on from generation to generation, as parents with poor coping skills take out their frustrations on their children.
Reitter said advocates volunteer 10 to 15 hours per month. Their responsibilities involve attending court hearings affecting the children they've been assigned, but other duties, such as visiting or calling the families allows for more flexibility in scheduling, Reitter said.
Stubbs said the next training program will begin May 19. She encouraged anyone interested in learning more to call (304) 737-4444.
She said the nonprofit program depends on funds from the federal Victims of Crime Act, which aren't guaranteed from year to year; grants; and contributions from local businesses, groups and individuals.
Recently the Tri-State Medical Group, which operates the Follansbee and Tri-State pharmacies, has committed to a third year as a corporate sponsor, donating $3,000 to the program. Also corporate sponsors are Safeguard Business Systems, Arch-IT-Tech Inc. and the Christian Fellowship Foundation of Wheeling.
Stubbs noted the program also benefits from volunteers who help at the office or with fundraisers.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 57 of Colliers, led by Assistant Scoutmaster Matt Bennett, and the Betha Theta Pi fraternity at Bethany College assisted Thursday.
Also contributing to the event were William and Nikki Thompson, the children of CASA board president Mike Thompson, who sang "There is a Castle on a Cloud."