Help Roanoke Valley foster children without being a foster parent; become a CASA volunteer

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 8:43 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, Roanoke city has the highest number of kids in foster care across the state. Children’s Trust is looking for more Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA Volunteers, to help change this statistic.

Children’s Trust works to prevent child abuse and neglect, and CASA volunteers help navigate the court process for the children and families involved.

CASA Volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for children. They stay with each case until it is closed, and the child is in a safe, permanent home.

Volunteers work with legal, child welfare professionals, educators, and service providers to make sure judges have all the information they need to make the most informed decisions for each child.

“Our volunteers are just appointed to one case, they’re able to say on that case, which can be up to 18 months sometimes in foster care. So our children are able to have one adult that is constant in their life that is there for them and to be their voice in court and to report back to the judge about what they need and their voices can be heard,” said Sammi Rader a CASA Director.

Mary Eve Zangari and Bill Mirenda have been CASA volunteers for about a year now and they say it’s all about helping and giving children a voice.

“The children who are helpless and all of this, you know, it’s not their fault that they’re going through this. And I saw all the helpers who are many to help these families and kids, but they can also come and go. And I saw that my presence was consistent. So I stayed with, while I have stayed with my two kids, through the whole thing, so I kind of know the whole story,” said Mary Eve Zangari.

“Every family gets assessed and gets every service that might help them, whether it’s alcohol or drug abuse, help for mental health services, or just coaching on how to be a good parent, so that a family that can be salvaged,” said Bill Mirenda.

Zangari and Mirenda say they could not do their jobs without the DSS workers and others involved in the child’s life.

CASA is one of five organizations within Children’s Trust, all of which serve kids and families in our region.

Children’s Trust offers two CASA trainings per year, in spring and fall. Interested? Visit

The spring session begins March 28.

Since July 1, 2022, they have served 115 children in Roanoke, Roanoke County, Salem, Craig County, and Botetourt County. CASA volunteers have spent almost 2,000 hours advocating for children.

The Federal government assigns a “rate of pay” to volunteers of $29.95 per hour; as such CASA volunteers have provided approximately $50,000 worth of service to children and families in need in 2022.

Officials say you don’t have to have any special skills to be a volunteer, just have a passion for helping children.

Children’s Trust is the umbrella organization for five programs serving local children and families. CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates is one of its 5 programs (the others being: Children First, Healthy Families, Trauma Informed Community Network, and Children’s Advocacy Center).