What is a CASA
A CASA volunteer is a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children involved in neglect and/or abuse cases in the court system.
The primary responsibility of a CASA is to meet with the child and advocate for the child's best interest.
Who are CASA volunteers?
CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens, age 21 or over. They come from diverse backgrounds and many work full-time. Some are students or retired persons. The most important qualities in a volunteer are commitment, objectivity, good communication skills, and they care about children.
Shannon Holt, CASA Director, was interviewed for the radio program, Closer Look, where she gave a detailed description of the CASA program. You can listen to the program here.
How does a volunteer relate to the child?
The volunteer must have regular, in-person contact with the child, sufficient to have in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact-based recommendations to the court. The volunteer encourages the child to express his/her own opinion and hopes.
What is the time commitment?
The new CASA volunteer will attend 30 hours of training sessions, a combination of online and in-person classes. This training will give the volunteer the tools to get the job done. Following that, there is an annual requirement of 12 hours of continued training.
Most CASA volunteers work one case at a time. It is estimated that a volunteer will spend approximately 10 to 15 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. After that, the volunteer will spend an average of 5 to 10 hours per month on their case. Volunteers are asked to commit to a child until the legal proceeding is over and the child is able to go home, is adopted or achieves permanency in a safe and stable home.
What does the training include?
Volunteers will be trained in social service and case management, the court systems and procedures, and the needs of children and family dynamics. Once you have completed your training, you will be sworn in as an officer of the court.
How do I become a volunteer?
To become a volunteer, you will need to fill out an application, submit references, attend a face-to-face interview, and since you will be working with children, a criminal background check will be performed. You can view the Volunteer Job Description here.
What type of situations do the children you represent come from?
Children who come in to care through the Department of Child Services come from all walks of life and circumstances. Some have been victims of abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and many come from homes where substance abuse disorders, housing insecurity and other issues affect their daily lives.
As CASA's, our role is to learn as much as we can about the child, the child's caregivers, school and needs so that we can make fact based recommendations to the court. Our goal is for a child to have a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible so they do not linger in the court system any longer than necessary to ensure their safety and well being.
Why do these children need a CASA to be their voice in court? Is this different from a social worker?
Simply put, a child has no voice in the court system without an advocate speaking on their behalf. Children cannot navigate the complex court system and without an advocate, their voices are lost. The judge hearing a case needs objective, fact based information to make decisions regarding that child. CASA’s are often referred to as the eyes and ears because they see and hear the child and bring the child’s needs to the attention of the court.
Sometimes it’s easy to confuse our role as CASA with that of a social worker. While CASA’s work collaboratively with the Department of Child Services, our roles are different and distinct. DCS case workers work with the whole family, CASA focuses on the needs of the child(ren).
Many family case managers who work for the Department of Child Services have degrees in social work or related fields. They have specific training in those fields and for those jobs.
What is a CASA?
CASA Volunteers advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
Will you be the one to change a child's life?