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A volunteer organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in West Virginia’s court system has a new state director.

Shanna Gray took over the job July 1 for the West Virginia Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, or CASA.

“The Board of Directors feels very fortunate to have found Shanna,” David Lang, the group’s board president, said in a news release. “We are quite certain that her leadership and professionalism will successfully guide us to create a stronger, more robust and even further-reaching program.”

Gray previously worked for an environmental nonprofit group.

One of her first goals is to increase CASA’s presence throughout the state by recruiting and training new volunteers to serve more children who have experienced abuse or neglect, she said.

“We can see there’s a growing number of children and youth in foster care and wrapped up in the court system,” Gray said. “The CASA advocacy volunteers are the voice for those children.”

CASA doesn’t exist in every county in West Virginia. There are 10 CASA locations throughout the state.

CASA volunteers offer technical assistance, training, research and resource development and seek to boost public awareness for children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

West Virginia’s CASA is part of a national association that provides similar services.

Part of the work of CASA volunteers keeps them as part of the same children’s cases, meaning a volunteer is part of a child’s case no matter where they live.

The goal, Gray said, is to establish permanency, whether it’s reuniting a child with their biological family or facilitating their adoption.

“It’s commonly known children in court cases and in foster care can bounce from home to home,” Gray said. “The CASA volunteers are the people who can help provide and help speak to the best interest of those children and be a stable unit for these kids.”

CASA volunteers must be 21 or older and pass a criminal background check. After being approved, volunteers complete a training program to begin their work.

To obtain further information, visit www.wvcasa.org, call 304-249-8799, or email shanna@wvcasa.org.