Why do children need a CASA?
CASA volunteers are passionate about the well-being of children in their community, but they are not all alike. They come from different backgrounds and have different lived experiences. Some are students, some are working, some are retired, and some are stay-at-home parents. They bring a variety of skills and knowledge to their role as a volunteer. They also bring the perspective of their race and culture. Each advocate is unique, and that uniqueness is leveraged in advocacy for a child.
While CASA volunteers are important advocates in the family court system, they do not need any special legal or social work training. They also do not need to be licensed foster parents because they do not provide care or housing for children. Instead, CASA volunteers come as they are, with open minds and open hearts.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES A CASA VOLUNTEER DO?
Spend time regularly with the child in a variety of settings: at the foster home, at the park, or at school. Build rapport, listen, and ask questions. Become the trusted adult who will stay on the case until the child returns to a safe, loving, permanent home.
Spend time getting to know the child’s parents, the foster family, and all the professionals involved in the case. Become a trusted team member.
Review documents and records to understand the child and family’s current and historical circumstances and situation. Interview everyone involved in the child’s life, from the teacher to the therapist.
Bring concerns about the child’s physical health, mental health, education, and general wellbeing to the appropriate professionals. Ensure that the children and family are receiving appropriate services, and advocate for those that are not immediately available.
“Be the glue”
Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the child’s life, creating an environment in which the child’s needs can be met. As one volunteer said, “Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.”
Keep the court informed
Through written reports, update the court on developments with the child and family, and advocate for the child’s best interests. Share the child’s wishes with the judge. Provide oral testimony if called upon.
Check to see that case plans and court orders are being followed and that the child is receiving the needed services. Bring any concerns to the appropriate professional or to the court.
Spend 10-15 hours per month focused on your advocacy. Speak up for and plead the case of the child. Make sure all actions are in the best interest of the child, remembering that the goal for every child is a safe, loving, permanent family in the shortest time possible.
How do I become a CASA volunteer?
People in counties all around the country follow the same steps to become a CASA volunteer. The goal of this process is to ensure that you are informed, trained, and equipped to be a court appointed special advocate.
- 1. Learn about CASA by perusing the website, attending an information session, or talking to a staff person.
- 2. Submit an application.
- 3. Participate in a pre-training interview.
- 4. Pass background checks.
- 5. Join a training course offered four times a year.
- 6. Complete 30 hours of training.
- 7. Participate in a post-training interview.
- 8. Be sworn in by a judge as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
- 9. Get assigned to an advocate supervisor.
- 10. Choose your court case and start advocating for a child or teen. Remain with the child until the court closes the case (18-24 months).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is the difference between a mentor and an advocate?
A: A mentor serves as a role model and works to build a long-term relationship with a child. An advocate supports a child during an especially traumatic time in their lives. The advocate’s role is to work themselves out of a job by ensuring that a child returns to a safe, stable, loving home.
Q: What are the requirements?
A: You must be at least 21 years of age and have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Once assigned a case, you must see your child regularly and write a report for each quarterly court hearing. Don’t let the court reports scare you away! CASA staff will be there to help.
Q: Do I need to have any special abilities?
A: You must be able to respect and relate to people from various backgrounds in a variety of settings. You will also need the ability to respond well to a variety of emotions, including anger, despair, and fear.
Q: What sort of support will I have?
A: You will be assigned to an advocate supervisor and supported every step of the way. You can also participate in continuing education opportunities, inservices, and state conferences.
Q: What is the time commitment?
A: CASA volunteers spend from 10 to 15 hours a month on their case. This includes visiting the child, talking with other professionals, attending meetings, and writing court reports. We ask CASA volunteers to remain involved with their case until a child returns to a safe, loving, permanent home. This usually takes 18 to 24 months.
Q: Can I share a CASA case with a partner?
A: Yes! Some people sign up with a friend, family member, partner, or spouse. Others meet in training and decide to take a case together. People who co-CASA usually take on cases with more children or additional challenges.
Q: Can my CASA child hang out with my family?
A: No. In this role, you must strictly protect the confidentiality of the child. You may not take the child to your home or introduce them to your family or friends.
Q: May I give my CASA child gifts or take them out to do special things?
A: No, and yes. A CASA volunteer may not give a child money or expensive gifts. However, you may take a child out for a treat or lunch, and you may give them small gifts for their birthday or holidays.
Q: What if I still have more questions?
A: No problem! We’d be glad to answer all of them. Just reach out to us.
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