What is CASA?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and those who find themselves without a caretaker due to the death or incapacitation or incarceration of their parents.

What is the role of the CASA volunteer?

A CASA volunteer provides a judge with a carefully researched report on the child and their circumstances to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer makes recommendations to the court regarding whether it is in the child’s best interest to be with his/her parents, be placed with relatives, to into foster care, or be adopted. The CASA volunteer monitors the case until it is permanently resolved.

How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?

In order to make a recommendation, the CASA volunteer spends time with the child and talks with parents, other family members, and others such as teachers, doctors, counselors, etc. who are knowledgeable about the child’s history and circumstances. CASA volunteers are given a court order granting them access to the professionals and their records.

How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social service caseworker?

Social workers generally work for the state. They sometimes work on as many as 30 cases at one time! The CASA volunteer has more time and a smaller caseload, typically no more than two cases at one time. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker; rather they act as 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. CASA does not provide direct services such as transportation but can assist families in locating these resources.

How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?

The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation or advice. The CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases.

Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?

CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens from all walks of life, representing a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 70,000 volunteers across the country, and a team of over 40 volunteers in Madison County. Local programs vary in the number of volunteers they utilize. Aside from their CASA volunteer work, 85% are employed in regular, full-time jobs. CASA work is very flexible, so it is appealing to busy people who need volunteer work to fit into their schedules.

What training does a CASA volunteer receive?

CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA program. An average training session involves approximately 30 hours. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the professions in the system – judges, attorneys, social workers, court personnel, and others. CASA volunteer learn effective advocacy techniques for children and are educated about specific topics, ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior.

Do attorneys, judges, and social caseworkers support CASA?

Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the volunteers. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.

How many CASA programs are there?

Since its creation in 1977, CASA has had a dramatic impact on the nation’s court system. There are over 900 CASA programs across all 50 states.

How effective have CASA programs been?

Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those without CASA representation do. Judges have observed that CASA children also have a better chance of finding permanent homes.

How much time does it require to be a volunteer?

Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 10 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work about 10 hours per month.