MADISON COUNTY CASA FACT SHEET
What is CASA?
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 the courts. Most of the children are victims of abuse and/or neglect.
What is the role of the CASA volunteer?
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with a carefully researched background investigation of the child and their circumstances to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in the child’s best interest to stay with his/her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer then monitors the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
In order to make a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, the parents, other family members, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social service caseworker?
State governments employ social workers generally. They sometimes work on as many as 60-90 cases at one time! The CASA volunteer has more time and a smaller caseload, typically no more than two cases at one time. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker; rather they act as an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child’s case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the court, independent of state agency restrictions. CASA does not provide direct services such as transportation.
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent a child’s wishes in court; they speak for the child’s best interest.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens from all walks of life, representing a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 70,000 volunteers. Local programs vary in the number of volunteers they utilize.
I have a full-time job and/or attending school full-time. Will becoming a volunteer interfere with my job and/or school?
Many of our volunteers have full time jobs. Madison County CASA does not set specific hours for volunteers to visit their CASA children. The volunteers schedule a time convenient for themselves to meet with CASA children and families. Many of them are able to complete their investigations during the evening or weekend.
Is it mandatory for me to attend court?
It is not mandatory for you to attend court hearings, although, Madison County CASA encourages volunteers to attend court if their schedules allows them to do so. Madison County CASA has staff that attends every court hearing and is there to take notes and update volunteers on their cases.
What training does a CASA volunteer receive?
CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA program. Training requirements vary from program to program. An average training session involves approximately 30 hours. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the professions in the system – judges, attorneys, social workers, court personnel, and others. CASA volunteer learn effective advocacy techniques for children and are educated about specific topics, ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior.
Do attorneys, judges, and social caseworkers support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the volunteers. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.
How many CASA programs are there?
Since its creation in 1977, CASA has had a dramatic impact on the nation’s court system. There are over 900 CASA programs across all 50 states.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those without CASA representation do. Judges have observed that CASA children also have a better chance of finding permanent homes.
How much time does it require to be a 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 5-10 hours per month.
The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.
Five Critical Pledges We’ve Made on Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children
We will work tirelessly until these five pledges are met:
- Every court in the United States recognizes that a CASA/GAL volunteer is essential for a successful outcome for children
- Our volunteer base reflects the diversity and cultural makeup of children in the system
- Every potential donor understands the importance of our mission, and places it at the top of their priority list
- Every government official at the local, state, tribal and federal level understands the far-reaching results a CASA/GAL volunteer can achieve, and places our work at the top of their agenda
- Every child can thrive in the safe embrace of a loving family