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Court Improvement Program Grants Improve Service Delivery in West Virginia

Michele BushMichele Bush, Executive Director, West Virginia CASA Association
Member, Oversight Board of the West Virginia Court Improvement Project

Summary: CASA staff and volunteers in West Virginia benefit greatly from the training and oversight provided by the Court Improvement Program.

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The West Virginia Court Improvement Program was initiated by the Supreme Court in 1995 and is currently funded by three federal grants: basic, training and data collection. There are approximately 50 individuals who are members of the CIP program’s multi-disciplinary oversight board. Additionally, there are seven committees that work to create, identify and promote initiatives that make the court system more responsible and efficient in achieving safety, permanence, well-being, due process and timely outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.

One of the objectives of the training grant is to co-sponsor the annual statewide CASA conference that is organized and facilitated by the West Virginia CASA Association. The funding provides training on a broad range of topics to enhance the advocacy skills of CASA volunteers and promote awareness of CASA and child abuse and neglect-related issues in West Virginia. The conference is held each year during the fall and is open to all relevant disciplines that  wish to attend. It is routinely attended by local social workers, attorneys and court personnel. Thanks to the funding through the Court Improvement Program, the registration fee is held to a minimum; it is only $15 for CASA volunteers. Without CIP funding CASA volunteers would not have the opportunity for advance skills training.

The conference provides an opportunity for CASA staff, CASA volunteers and other individuals to learn and network in a relaxed environment. The previous three conferences have included education on topics such as sexual abuse, advocating for older youth, and the impact of alcohol and drugs on the children we serve.

In addition to providing funding for the CASA conference, the WV Court Improvement Program hosts an annual two-day cross training conference held in multiple locations across the state. Due to the multiple locations and free registration, this has been a great resource for CASA volunteers and staff to receive in-service training hours. Furthermore, written materials and video recordings from previous conferences are available online for no charge.

Finally, the Court Improvement Program Training Committee worked diligently in 2010 to produce a video titled The Time is Now for parents involved in child abuse and neglect proceedings. The video explains the court proceedings, introduces the people who may be involved—including the CASA volunteer—and the timelines that must be adhered to. All CASA programs in the state received the video, which is an additional resource that can be utilized to educate volunteers and staff. The video is also available online.

The West Virginia Court Improvement Program Oversight Board and Committees work diligently to improve outcomes for children and families. CASA staff and volunteers in our state greatly benefit from the efforts of the Court Improvement Program, as well as from the funding for our state conference. As a member of the oversight board, it is exciting to participate on several committees and be actively involved in making positive changes in our state.

 

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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