What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen (age 21 or over) who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in juvenile court. Most of the children are victims of abuse or neglect.
What is the CASA volunteer's role?
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the children's future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer helps determine if it is in a child's best interest to return home to his or her parents or guardians, stay in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer follows through on the case until it is permently resolved.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social service workers, 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 such as school, medical and case worker reports and other documents.
Is there a "typical" CASA Volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 52,000 CASA volunteers nationally. Aside from their CASA volunteer responsibily, 50% are employed in regular full-time jobs: the majority tend to be professionals. 82% of the volunteers nationwide are women; 18% are men.
How much time does it require?
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 10-15 hours a month.
How many cases does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?
The number varies among programs but an average caseload is one or two cases at a time.
How does the CASA volunteer relate to the child he or she represents?
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, reasons they are in court, and the roles the judge, lawyers and social workers play. CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Research suggests 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 who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes.
Do lawyers, judges and social caseworkers support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in the courtrooms and appoint volunteers. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.