Court Appointed Special Advocates - CASA
WHAT IS A CASA VOLUNTEER
A CASA volunteer is a screened, trained, qualified community volunteer appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of children who have been abused or neglected. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:
- Gather information: Review documents and records, and interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
- Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
- Appear in court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.
- Seek cooperative solutions: Seek solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives.
- Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
- Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
- Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child’s situation.
The CASA program is part of the court, but works independently. CASA works closely with the Department of Children’s Services, foster parents, therapists, attorneys, social workers, schools, and other professionals involved in a child’s case. CASA volunteers work under the direct supervision of the CASA Executive Director and Volunteer Coordinator to further the child’s welfare and to expedite the case through the system.
CASA‘s role in court is powerful and significantly improves how justice is administered in dependency and neglect cases. Juvenile Court Magistrates use the report to respect the child’s sense of time, avoid unnecessary continuances and make informed, timely decisions regarding the best interest of the child. For children, CASA volunteers are a lifeline in complex legal proceedings offering trust, advocacy, and a means to express their own opinions and hopes. One CASA child noted “To give a child a CASA volunteer is to give them a voice, and to give them a voice is to give them hope, and to give them hope is to give them the world.”