This section is a compilation of answers to the questions most commonly asked by potential volunteers. Just start by following one of the links below. If you can’t find the question you wanted to ask, don’t hesitate to contact us.
- What does a CASA Volunteer Do?
- What is the role of a CASA Volunteer?
- How do CASA volunteers investigate a case?
- How are CASA volunteers different from social workers?
- How are CASA volunteers different from attorneys?
- Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
- Do lawyers, judges, and social workers support CASA?
- How effective are CASA programs?
- How much time is required to volunteer?
- How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved?
- Are there other agencies or groups providing a similar service?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen 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 family court. All of the children that CASA volunteers work with are victims of abuse and neglect.
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background details about the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if the best interest of the child is staying with their parents or guardians, being placed in foster care, or being freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, 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- school, medical, case worker reports and other documents.
Social workers generally are employed by state governments sometimes working as many as 60 to 90 cases at a time; they are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each case. The CASA volunteer has more time and a smaller caseload (average of 1-2 cases) to assess a case. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker on a case; they are an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer thoroughly examines a child’s case, knows about various community resources and makes recommendations to the court independent of stage agency restrictions.
How are CASA volunteers different from attorneys?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom- that is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life and possess a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 93,000 CASA volunteers nationally. Local programs vary in number of volunteers they utilize.
Do lawyers, judges, and social workers support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint volunteers. 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 U.S Department of Justice.
How effective are CASA programs?
Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time in the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA advocated children also have better chances of finding permanent homes.
How much time is required to volunteer?
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 hours a month.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved?
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. 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 provided continuity for a child.
Are there other agencies or groups providing a similar service?
No. 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.