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Back to the Disco Days: CASA-EP to host ’70s Disco Party

By Staff | Sep 21, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Court Appointed Special Advocates-Eastern Panhandle founder Valerie Smith may have stepped away from the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit’s board for 10 years, but she returned last year after realizing the need for court-appointed advocates in the area was only growing, as the result of the opioid epidemic.

Smith co-founded the local branch of the national organization with Joan Ergin in 2003, after reading an article about the lack of foster care families in the Eastern Panhandle. According to Smith, the amount of children in the foster care system has only increased in the last few years.

“In the past few years, the amount of children coming into the court system because of drugs is overwhelming — the courts are overwhelmed,” Smith said, mentioning she has noticed some changes in the kids CASA-EP deals with, from when she was last involved with the organization.

“There’s more neglect now than abuse, but in many ways it’s the same thing,” Smith said. “Parents will leave their kids alone for days with no food and no electricity, while they’re looking for drugs. All they’re thinking about is the next fix.”

Regardless of the situation a child was rescued from by the court system, each child needs to have an advocate. According to Smith, an advocate can make a difference in a child’s life, to an extent which a social worker cannot. Compared with a social worker’s load of 20-or-more cases at a time, advocates typically only have three children to watch out for, and volunteer about six hours a week to getting to know the children and report their needs to their teachers and the court.

“The advocate petitions the court, so they’ll write a report to the court every month about what they think the child should be doing or getting, because they also monitor the parents — is the parent doing rehab, is the parent doing parenting classes? We make sure to tell the judges if the parents are trying to do their best to make their homes a safe environment,” Smith said. “If the parental rights are removed by the court, then we’ll look at other relatives to see if they can adopt the child. And, if not, they’ll be adopted outside. That’s the whole idea — to get them placed with someone who won’t make them scared.”

Currently, CASA-EP has 56 advocates, and needs to train more. Although the advocates are volunteers, their training isn’t free, so Smith and the Friends of CASA-EP have organized a 70s Disco Party, which will be held at Shepherdstown Fire Hall on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.

“The older people don’t know the modern music, and all the younger ones know the old music. So we thought, let’s do the ’70s — we all know ABBA,” Smith said, mentioning attendees are encouraged to dress up for the event. “We’ve got so many people who are renting costumes to go along with the theme. It’s going to be a fun evening with great music and lots of strobe lighting.”

The event will also feature heavy hors d’oeuvres donated by The Bavarian Inn, grab bags and raffles for items, including a dinner for four at The Bavarian Inn, a 72-piece cutlery set and two nights at the Mimslyn Inn.

Tickets to the event cost $70 per person, and $50 of that cost are tax-deductible. To buy tickets or to learn more about becoming an advocate, visit mycasaep.org, or call 304-671-5368.