You have the power to change a child's life.
Too many kids are without a CASA volunteer. They’re merely a kid in an overburdened system; a name that’s recognized by the Judge only because it’s on the file label. With no one to speak up for the child, the Judge knows only what is written in the file … if anyone has bothered to submit a report.
CASA volunteers change this. A kid becomes a real person – recognized as having feelings, needs, and wants. A CASA volunteer helps identify these and makes sure the Judge is able to make decisions based on the true wellbeing of the child. Perhaps siblings have been split between foster homes – a CASA volunteer can make sure visitation is arranged. Simply put, a CASA volunteer gives a voice to an otherwise scared child navigating a court system in the hopes of someday having a permanent, safe home.
It’s a rewarding journey for volunteers. Are you ready to be the difference for a child?
The application to become a CASA® volunteer is quite extensive because we are very careful who we put into these delicate situations. The application can now be completed online and the information you send is encrypted before it is transmitted, so you can be assured your information is safe. You can complete the form here.
Roles and Responsibilities
Being a CASA volunteer does not require any special education or background, simply the desire to help abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes.
So what does it take to become a CASA volunteer?
- The first step: Every volunteer must complete a background check and complete a training course.
- After successfully completing the training, the volunteer is assigned his first case. A volunteer’s average time commitment to a case is approximately 10 hours per month.
- Volunteer advocates are asked to dedicate themselves to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half.
- Advocates are supervised every step of the way and always have resources readily available.
While it might sound like a lot at first, it’s all very manageable … and worth it. Just ask our volunteers
While CASA programs vary somewhat community to community, the following are typical duties of a court appointed special advocate or guardian ad litem volunteer:
Advocate for the child's interests in the community by bringing concerns regarding the child's health, education and mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals to assure that the child's needs in these areas are met.
- Conduct an independent investigation by reviewing all pertinent documents and records and interviewing the child, parents, social workers, foster parents, teachers, therapists, daycare providers and other relevant persons to determine the facts and circumstances of the child's situation. To do this effectively, volunteers spend considerable time getting to know children and gaining their trust.
- Determine the thoughts and feelings of the child about the situation, taking into account the child's age, maturity, culture and ethnicity and degree of attachment to family members, including siblings. Also to be considered are continuity, consistency and a sense of belonging and identity.
- Seek cooperative solutions by acting as a facilitator among conflicting parties to achieve resolution of problems and to foster positive steps toward achieving permanence for the child.
- Provide written reports at every hearing which include findings and recommendations. The report documents the extent of the volunteer's investigation, lists each source of information and includes sufficient facts to justify the recommendations.
- Appear at all hearings to advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain the court proceedings and the role of the CASA® volunteer to the child in terms the child can understand.
- Make recommendations for specific, appropriate services for the child and the child's family and advocate for necessary services which may not be immediately available.
- Monitor implementation of case plans and court orders, checking to see that court-ordered services are implemented in a timely manner and that review hearings are held in accordance with the law.
- Inform the court promptly of important developments including any agency's failure to provide services or the family's failure to participate. The CASA volunteer should ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child in order that the court can be made aware of the changes in the child's circumstances and can take appropriate actions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What function do Court Appointed Special Advocate® (CASA) volunteers serve?
CASA® volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused and neglected children in foster care, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.
As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:
- Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of the assigned case
- Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, representing his or her best interests
- Act as a "watchdog" for the child for the duration of the case, ensuring it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion
How are CASA volunteers assigned to cases?
Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases involving physical or sexual abuse and neglect. Several other factors are also considered in making this decision:
- The instability of the child's current placement
- The presence of conflicting case information
- Concerns about the implementation of special services, such as medical care, counseling and education assistance
What are the qualifications to become a CASA volunteer?
Commitment: The vast majority of cases last one to two years, and the amount of time spent on a case per month typically ranges between 10-20 hours.
Objectivity: Volunteers research case records and speak to everyone involved in a child's life, including their family members, teacher, doctor, lawyer, social worker and others.
Communication skills: Once a volunteer has fully evaluated a case, they prepare a written report outlining their recommendation for the child's placement.
Your local CASA program provides ongoing training and support for every volunteer. Each volunteer is assigned a case supervisor who is a resource for the volunteer every step of the way.