CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA volunteers are ordinary people who care about kids. They come from all backgrounds. Many work full time. Some are students or retired people. Most CASA volunteers work on one case at a time. No legal expertise is required.
CASA volunteers are assigned an abuse or neglect case by a judge. They thoroughly research the case, reviewing documents and interviewing everyone involved, including the child. They submit reports at the court’s request and make recommendations in the child’s best interest, providing the judge with information that will help him make an informed decision.
CASA volunteers can be instrumental in assuring that a child or family receives services which the court has ordered—things like substance abuse counseling or special education testing. During the life of a case, the CASA volunteer monitors a child's situation to make sure he or she remains safe. CASA volunteers may be the only constant the child knows as she moves through the labyrinth of the child welfare system.
When you take on a case, you take on a child's future. Chaves County CASA asks for a commitment of at least one year. Some cases take longer. The amount of time you will need to devote will vary depending on the stage of the proceedings. Nationally, CASA volunteers give an average of 88 hours per year.
The role of the CASA volunteer is to represent the best interests of the child. That may not always mean giving children what they want. CASA volunteers must speak with everyone involved in the cases to which they are assigned and remain objective when making recommendations. Although CASA volunteers establish relationships with children, they must not seek to become Big Brothers or Big Sisters to them.
Good Communication Skills
CASA volunteers must be able to communicate with a wide variety of people from health care professionals and school teachers to court officials and angry parents. CASA volunteers present written reports to the court, sometimes speaking in the courtroom on behalf of the children they represent.
CASA programs provide 30 hours of in-depth training on the court process, child development, abuse and neglect, cultural competency, advocacy and interviewing techniques, HIV and other public health topics. You will hear from judges, attorneys, social workers and other professionals in the field. In-service training is offered throughout the year.
A CASA is a volunteer appointed by the Children's Court of The Fifth Judicial District to ensure that the needs of a child who may have been neglected or abused are met. In order to do this, the CASA must investigate the facts of the case, recommend a course of action to the court, facilitate the resolution of the presenting problems, and monitor progress toward established goals.
I. Qualifications of a CASA
1. Interest in children, their rights, and special needs.
2. Time to devote to training sessions, investigation and follow-up of a case assigned (usually a one-year commitment averaging 2 to 4 hours a week.)
3. Ability to work with a child, family members, and professionals using tact, concern and basic human relations skills.
4. Ability to communicate verbally and in writing - making verbal and written reports to the court, to the program director, and to other persons as needed.
II. Requirements of a CASA
1. Attend basic training sessions, approximately 25 hours in length.
2. Maintain strict confidentiality.
3. Attend in-service training sessions on an on-going basis, 8 to 10 per year.)
4. After basic training, serve at least one child until a permanent plan has been implemented, often a period of one year.
5. Keep the staff informed of all activities and confer with them periodically.
6. Maintain an up-to-date and complete file on each case assigned.
7. Attend CASA group meetings to share ideas and concerns with other CASAs.
III. Specific Duties of a CASA
1. Upon assignment to a case, interview the child, family members, foster family, teachers, social worker, and other interested parties to determine the facts. (Many interviews are by phone. By necessity, some must be in person. In addition any home suggested as a permanent or temporary placement for the child must be visited.) Volunteers are assigned to a maximum of two cases at a time to assure quality advocacy.
2. The volunteer will seek cooperative solutions by acting as a facilitator.
3. Advocate for the child’s best interests in the community by interfacing with mental health, educational and other community systems to assure that the child’s needs in these areas are met.
4. Prepare a written report stating findings and a recommendation for a permanent disposition of the case, and submit the report no less than one week prior to the court hearing.
5. Appear in court as needed for review hearings and provide testimony when necessary.
6. Continue follow-up contacts, submit supplementary reports, and make new recommendations as needed, until a final disposition is made.
7. Participate in scheduled case conferencing with supervisory staff.
8. Bring any significant changes in the family situation to the attention of the court. Ensure that reviews by the court are done on schedule.
9. Return files upon case closure.
Positive adult involvement is an indispensable part a child’s development. The ability to form healthy relationships with adults pays long-term dividends into the lives of kids at risk of gang involvement and other forms of criminal activity. Above all, children need to know that someone cares about them and that’s what a mentor does.
• Volunteers three to twelve hours a month at various scheduled events
• Participates in CASA’s and Girls Circle Programs by facilitating activities and helping participants complete assigned tasks
• Provides non-judgmental support to youth in crisis
• Acts as a positive role model
• Spends quality one-on-one time with assigned mentees
• Be a concerned citizen who believes in the youth of our community
• Enjoy working with teens
• Be flexible and non-judgmental
• Complete a written application
• Pass relevant record and reference checks
• Be interviewed by our Volunteer Coordinator
• Receive provided training in areas of delinquency, the legal system, youth at risk, communication skills, and more