What Does a CASA Volunteer Do?
Advocating for the "best interest" of the child, a trained CASA provides the Family Court judge carefully researched details about a foster child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. He or she recommends to the judge what the child needs to be safe and what is in the best interest for a permanent home. The CASA makes recommendations to the judge in the form of a report, attends the child’s hearings and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
What Training Does a CASA Volunteer Receive?
CASA volunteer advocates receive 30-hours of classroom instruction from the program staff, and other professionals in our community. After the classroom instruction is complete the volunteer is sworn in by the family court Judge and then concludes the training with a 3-hour courtroom observation that is required before CASA volunteers can take a case. Thereafter, volunteers are required to fulfill 12 hours of in-service training per year.
How Much Time Does It Require?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 15 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteer advocates work anywhere from 5-25 hours per month depending on the complexity of the case to which they are assigned.
How Is CASA Different From The Division Of Youth And Family Services (DYFS)?
Case workers generally are employed by state governments and have several cases at a time while CASA volunteers are able to provide their full attention to just one family. No state agency could ever afford to provide the kind of one-on-one assistance that CASA makes available to the children and families. The CASA volunteer does not replace the case worker; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child’s case, has knowledge of the community resource, and can make a recommendation to the court independent of the state agency restrictions.
How Long Does a CASA Volunteer Remain Involved with a Case?
Our CASA program requires a minimum two-years commitment with the ultimate goal of the volunteer continuing until the case is permanently resolved and permanency has been achieved. That is because one of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.
How Attached Does a CASA Become to the Child(ren)?
CASAs do not have a close relationship with the child the way a Big Brother or Big Sister would. As an advocate, you see the child approximately once a month. The CASA role is to facilitate services for the child, not to have the child or the family becomes dependent upon them.
Do CASAs Go Into the Homes of the Birth Parents Whose Children Have Been Removed?
CASAs meet birth parents both in their homes and in neutral places such as diners, fast food restaurants, the place they may go for therapy or visits with their child, or outside the courtroom. The safety of the volunteer is very important to us, and we would never ask a volunteer to go someplace where they did not feel safe. If the child is going to be reunited with the parent(s), the CASA often goes to visit where they live shortly before this takes place as part of their independent assessment of the situation.
Is There a "Typical” CASA Advocate?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds.
How Are CASA Programs Funded?
CASA programs depend on their communities to support the service. Foundations, corporations, fundraising events, annual giving and grants are just some examples of the ongoing support received by local CASA programs.
How Effective Are CASA Programs?
Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time within the foster care system than those who do not have a CASA volunteer - an average of eight months shorter. They also do better in school overall, have fewer placement changes, and have more services ordered for them. Children assigned to a CASA also have better chances of finding permanent homes than children not assigned to a CASA, with significantly lower rates of re-entry than children without an advocate.