What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a specially trained citizen appointed by a family court judge to represent a child victim in cases of abuse and neglect.
What does a CASA volunteer do?
Advocating for the best interest of a child, a trained CASA provides a judge with carefully researched details about the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. He or she recommends to the judge what the child needs to be safe and what is in the best interest for a permanent home. The CASA makes recommendations to the judge in the form of a report, attends the child’s hearings and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
What training does a CASA volunteer receive?
CASA volunteer advocates receive 30 hours of classroom instruction from program staff and other professionals in our community. After the classroom instruction is complete, the volunteer is sworn in by the family court judge. Volunteers conclude the training with a required 3-hour courtroom observation before taking a case. Thereafter, volunteers are required to fulfill 12 hours of in-service training per year.
What is the CASA philosophy?
The CASA concept is based on the idea that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. The juvenile court judge appoints a volunteer to the child’s case. The volunteer then becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court. Unlike attorneys and social workers, however, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child’s best interests. By handling only one or two cases at a time the CASA volunteer has time to thoroughly explore the history of each assigned case. CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
How does a CASA volunteer research a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, case managers, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child - school, medical, case manager reports, and other pertinent documents.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social service case worker?
Social service case workers are generally employed by state governments. They sometimes work 20 cases at a time. CASA volunteers, on the other hand, are able to provide their full attention to just one family at a time. No state agency could ever afford to provide the kind of one-on-one assistance that CASA makes available to children and families. The CASA volunteer does not replace the case worker; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child's case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the court independent of state agency restrictions.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
Our CASA program requires a minimum one-year commitment. We ask that you join keeping in mind our ultimate goal is the volunteer continuing to stay involved until the case is permanently resolved and permanency has been achieved. That is because one of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.
Is there a "typical" CASA advocate?
Not at all. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds.
How much time is required?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 15 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteer advocates work anywhere from 4-20 hours per month depending on the complexity of the case to which they are assigned.
How is CASA funded?
CASA programs depend on their communities to support the service. Foundations, corporations, fundraising events, annual giving and grants are just some examples of the ongoing support received by local CASA programs.
How effective are CASA programs?
Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time within the foster care system than those who do not have a CASA volunteer. Children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than three years in care: 13.3% for CASA cases versus 27.0% of all children in foster care. Judges have also observed that children assigned to a CASA also have significantly better chances of finding permanent homes than children not assigned to a CASA.
What are some of the things CASA volunteers do?
- Visit foster homes, birth parents, etc. on a regular basis and share impressions with DYFS caseworker
- Support foster parents with information and resources for special needs children
- Attend Court and Child Placement Review Board hearings
- Locate relatives who may be interested in pursuing custody
- Attend Case Planning, Individual Service Plan, Individual Education Plan, and Annual Review Meetings
- Assist Department of Youth and Family Services caseworker with preparation of searches
- Act as a sounding board for foster and birth parents
- Discuss reports from schools, therapists, etc. with DYFS caseworker
- Assist in finding and arranging transportation to therapy and visitation (CASA volunteers are not allowed to provide transportation)
- Assist with obtaining equipment and/or facilities for children's extracurricular activities
- Locate and facilitate camp placements
- Make referrals to community resources such as Salvation Army, Jewish Family Services, Big Brother/Sister, etc.
Are there other ways in which I can assist CASA?
Yes! You can assist with fundraising events, volunteer your time performing administrative tasks in the CASA office, donate an item on our Wish List, or make a financial contribution.