PAULDING – Northwest Ohio CASA is excited to announce an expansion into Paulding County in collaboration with the Paulding County Juvenile Court and Judge Michael A. Wehrkamp.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. The program recruits and trains community volunteers to advocate for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

Northwest Ohio CASA is a nonprofit organization that originated in Henry County in 1991 as Henry County CASA and expanded into Defiance and Williams Counties in 2017 under a grant from Ohio CASA.

Ohio CASA has once again provided Northwest Ohio CASA with a generous grant for the expansion into Paulding County.

Currently, Northwest Ohio CASA has 48 active volunteers serving Defiance, Henry, and Williams Counties. Volunteers undergo 30 hours of pre-service training as well as court observations to become child advocates.

During this past year from Aug. 2019 – Aug. 2020, CASA volunteers have logged just over 2,000 hours of service.

They are looking to add four – six volunteers for Paulding County.

Each volunteer is sworn-in by the judge in his or her county and given a court appointment that allows the volunteer to investigate the case.

CASA volunteers work with caseworkers from Job and Family Services, parents and family members, teachers and doctors, as well as meeting with the children once a month to monitor progress on the case. The goal of a CASA volunteer is to ensure the child’s voice is heard in court and to help work towards family reunification or a safe, permanent placement.

Bringing the CASA program to Paulding County has been a goal of Judge Wehrkamp’s since he took office in 2017.

“Over the past few years, I’ve had many people stop me and say, ‘What can I do to help?’ This program provides that opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our community by ensuring someone is there to be a voice for children who have endured neglect or abuse,” said Wehrkamp.

As the Paulding County program begins, Northwest Ohio CASA is looking for volunteers to become advocates in Paulding County. Those interested in volunteering do not need to have any background knowledge of court proceedings or the child welfare system.

“We train all volunteers and provide continued support and guidance throughout their cases,” said Desirae Eisenman, Executive Director of Northwest Ohio CASA.

To become a CASA volunteer, one must complete an application, as well as a one-on-one interview and background check.

Northwest Ohio CASA’s next training will be held from mid-November to mid-December and will be completely virtual. Training sessions are three and a half hours long, one night a week for six weeks.

If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer please visit www.nwocasa.com for an application or email info@nwocasa.com. Northwest Ohio CASA may be reached at 419-592-9455.

“There are many ways to be involved even if you can’t commit the time to volunteer,” Eisenman explained. “You can become a Friend of CASA and help with fundraising and community events. You can spread the word and send potential volunteers our way. Or, you can donate to our organization.”

The Paulding County CASA office will be located in the Paulding County Job and Family Services building located at 252 Dooley Drive, Paulding, Ohio.