Frequently Asked Questions
Who are CASA Volunteers?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include victims of abuse and neglect for whom home placement decisions are being made by the juvenile court.
How does the CASA program work?
The CASA concept is based on the belief that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. The juvenile court judge appoints a volunteer to the child's case. The CASA volunteer then becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court. Unlike attorneys and social workers, however, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child's best interests. By handling only one or two cases at a time, the CASA volunteer has time to thoroughly explore the history of each assigned case. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child's best interests.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, his or her parents, family members, social 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, social worker reports, and other documents. The CASA worker then provides a carefully researched background of the child to assist the court in making sound decisions about that child's future.
What are the benefits of a CASA program?
When a child has a CASA volunteer, he/she understands that there is one special person whose only purpose is to help him or her. Consequently, the system seems a little less overwhelming. The judge receives important information to assist in making a decision about the child's future. The volunteer advocate becomes directly involved in protecting the rights of the child.
What is the role of a CASA volunteer?
A CASA volunteer provides the judge with carefully researched background information about the child to help the court make the best decisions about the child's future. The CASA volunteer recommends if it is in the child's best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer also makes a recommendation about pertinent services for the child and family, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does the CASA volunteer advocate relate to the child he or she represents?
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain the events that are happening, the reasons they are in court, and the roles the judge, lawyers, and social worker play. CASA volunteers encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers to the process.
Is there a "typical" CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Many are employed in regular full-time jobs. You do not have to have special experience in the child welfare or legal systems to become a volunteer.
Do lawyers, judges and social workers support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the CASA volunteer as an officer of the court. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the US Department of Justice.
How are CASA volunteers trained?
CASA volunteers receive 34 hours of classroom instruction from Chesterfield CASA staff members, judges, social workers, and other professionals in our community. There is also a requirement that CASA trainees attend court hearings to observe what takes place there.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different, but most CASA volunteers spend about five hours per week working on their case.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the child's life.