What is a CASA Volunteer?
A CASA (Court Appointed Advocate®) volunteer is a dedicated member of the community who is appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of an abused or neglected child in the state’s care.
What is the role of the CASA/GAL?
A CASA provides a judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make sound decisions about the child’s future. Each case is as unique as the child or children involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child’s best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster or relative care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA makes recommendations to the judge on placement and services so that every child can have a safe, permanent home and the opportunity to thrive.
In fulfilling this child-centered role, the CASA performs three separate functions:
- An INVESTIGATOR whose task is to uncover all relevant facts and report them to the court;
- An ADVOCATE for the best interest of the child in the courtroom and in the child welfare and social services systems, identifying resources and services in the child’s best interest; and
- A MONITOR who ensures that court orders are being followed and all services are provided in a timely manner and who brings to the court’s attention any new developments, changes, or concerns.
Does the child or children stay IN MY HOME?
No, you should never take the child to your home. You do visit with the children wherever they are placed.
How does a CASA differ from a Children Service’s caseworker?
Case workers may work on as many as 10 to 15 cases at a time, which can limit the amount of time available for a comprehensive investigation of each. The CASA is a volunteer who handles only one or two cases at a time. As an independent appointee of the court and a party to the case, the CASA thoroughly examines a child’s case, has knowledge of community resources, and is required to make recommendations to the court based on the best interests of the child. Unlike the caseworker, who has a legal mandate to try to reunify families, the CASA’s mandate is to advocate for the best interests of the child. A trained CASA and a skilled caseworker are both critical to a successful case.
How does the role of a CASA differ from an attorney?
The CASA does not provide legal representation; that is the role of the attorney. Instead, the CASA volunteer advocates for the best interests of the child. The CASA provides crucial background information and logical, fact-based recommendations that assist the court in making sound decisions for the child.
Who can be a CASA volunteer?
CASA’s come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. Diversity is valued and provides a foundation of strength to our program. The Brush Country CASA program is composed of both male and female volunteers over 21 years of age who may be employed full-time or part-time, be retired, be a volunteer attorney, or be a homemaker. CASA volunteer are people just like you: compassionate, objective, self-motivated individuals from the community. All are passionately committed to helping children.
Can anyone be a CASA?
CASA’s are ordinary citizens, twenty-one years of age or older. No special or legal background is required. However, volunteers are screened closely for objectivity, competence, and commitment.
Do I need special training to become a CASA volunteer?
Yes. CASA volunteers receive 32 hours of classroom training, homework and court observations prior to being assigned a case. The curriculum is designed to inform volunteers about courtroom procedures, the dynamics of abuse and neglect, cultural differences, and effective advocacy techniques. Volunteers are also required to attend a minimum of 12 hours of In-Services held throughout the year.
How do CASA volunteers relate to the children they represent?
CASA volunteers interview the children they represent, if the children are old enough to talk. If not, the CASA observes the baby’s interactions with the various people involved in the baby’s life. The CASA offers the child a trust-based relationship and advocacy, both within and outside the courtroom. The CASA explains to the child the events that are happening and the roles the judge, lawyers, case workers and others play. The CASA also encourages the child to express his or her own opinions, fears, and hopes and conveys those to the court. In addition, the VOICES initiative invites children ages 10 and older to participate in court hearings affecting them.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer typically spends more time doing research, conducting interviews, and writing a court report during the first few weeks of a new case. Once the CASA writes the initial report and appears at the first hearing, the CASA can expect to spend about 8-10 hours per month on a case including travel and phone calls. Many of our CASA volunteers work full time and find the CASA experience flexible enough to accommodate their schedules.
How long does a CASA remain with a case?
The CASA continues on the case until the case is permanently resolved. Each volunteer is asked to make an initial one-year commitment to the program. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other case principals who often rotate cases, the volunteer is a consistent figure in the court proceedings and the child’s life, providing much needed continuity for the system and, more importantly, for the child.
What if I need help with my CASA child?
Each volunteer is assigned to a CASA Program Supervisor, who are available to answer any questions and provide guidance, support and supervision. Most importantly, CASA volunteers have the support of each other.
Do other agencies or groups provide the same services?
No. Other child advocacy organizations exist, but CASA is the only program in which volunteers are appointed as officers of the court by the judge to represent a child’s best interest.
Who are the children being represented?
Children who are victims of abuse or neglect and for whom cases have been filed in the Juvenile Court are assigned a CASA/GAL. The Domestic Relations Court also appoints GAL for children in divorce proceedings, but they are not trained CASA volunteers.
How many CASA programs are there?
There are CASA programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide more than 85,000 citizens serve as CASA volunteers in nearly 1,000 programs. More than 400,000 children are in foster care on any given day. Every year more than 260,000 abused and neglected children are served by CASA volunteers.
How effective have CASA programs been?
- Children with a CASA volunteer are half as likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than three years in care.
- Cases involving a CASA volunteer are more likely to be permanently closed. Fewer than 10% of children with a CASA volunteer reenter the foster care system.
- CASA volunteers spend most of their volunteer time in contact with a child. They generally handle just one or two cases at a time so that they can give each child the sustained, personal attention he or she deserves. To a child, that means a consistent and caring adult presence in his or her life.
- CASA advocacy saves taxpayer dollars