WILKES-BARRE — For Brittany Wascavage, the decision to become a court-appointed special advocate in Luzerne County was easy.
She was adopted at a young age by Sally Wascavage, of Kingston, and her husband. Having gone through the system herself, Brittany Wascavage knew she could help others, Court Appointed Special Advocate program Director Judith Jones said Wednesday.
The mother-daughter team were among a total of eight local people sworn in Wednesday to CASA, a program designed to protect abused and neglected children involved in court proceedings.
“It is a great day for Luzerne County,” county Judge Tina Polachek Gartley said. “We’re glad to welcome everyone officially, and we’re thrilled to have their experience and life experiences.”
The program trains volunteers to be assigned to a child or sibling group and serve in the interest of those children to ensure a safe, permanent home is found. Dependency court is a branch of juvenile court that deals with placement of children who are abused or neglected.
A judge presiding over dependency court depends on court advocates to gather information about the abused or neglected child or children and to monitor the case from its inception and report about progress being made.
The program started looking for volunteers in October, when the initiative was announced.
Of those sworn in Wednesday, volunteers such as Rhoda Tillman, of Wilkes-Barre, also serve the county on Youth Aid Panels or like Donna Vrhel, of Dallas, have been social workers for a long time.
Others sworn in included Mary-Louise Faber, of Bear Creek; Mary Jarrett, of Plymouth; James Rucco, of Larksville; and Sandy Serafin, of Wilkes-Barre.
Jones is responsible for recruiting, screening and training volunteers and operates CASA out of an office on East Union Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Currently, Luzerne is one of 23 counties in the state that participate in a CASA program. The program in one county, Jones has said, had a success rate of 98 percent.
The Luzerne County program will work toward becoming a nonprofit organization over the next year, Jones has said.
“We hope to continue to build our volunteer base,” Polachek Gartley said, “… in hopes that every child (in dependency court) will benefit from having a court-appointed special advocate.”