A child in foster care longs for a safe and loving family just like any child.
As a CASA volunteer, you are empowered by the courts to help make this dream a reality.
You will be the one consistent adult in these children’s lives, vigilantly fighting for and protecting their fundamental right to be treated with the dignity and respect every child deserves.
You will not only bring positive change to the lives of these vulnerable children, but also their children and generations to come. And in doing so, you will enrich your life as well.
As a CASA volunteer, you are valued, important and desperately needed!
What Do CASA Volunteers Do?
CASA volunteers listen first. Then they act. Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life; parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
Who Can Be a CASA Volunteer?
You do not have to be a lawyer or social worker to be a volunteer. CASAs come from all walks of life. As a volunteer, you will be thoroughly trained and well supported by professional staff to help you through each case. As expected, there are certain requirements that must be met.You must pass a background check, participate in a 30-hour pre-service training course and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (a year and a half on average).
Although there will be variations from state to state, all CASA volunteers must complete a 30-hour pre-service training. The time commitment to a case varies depending upon the stage of the case. Volunteers sometimes say there is a greater amount of work in the beginning of the case when they are conducting their initial research. On average, you can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a month on a case.
As a CASA, it is likely that you will be asked to dedicate yourself to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half. Most CASA programs require that a volunteer commit to serve for at least one year.
One of the unique aspects of the CASA program is that no special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. People from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds are encouraged to participate on behalf of a child in foster care. You do not have to be a legal professional and once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
- Be 21 years old.
- Be willing to complete necessary background checks, provide references and participate in an interview.
- Complete a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training.
- Be available for court appearances, with advance notice.
- Be willing to commit to the CASA program until your first case is closed.
Once trained, approved and ready to start, CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:
- Gather information: Review documents and records, 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.
- “Be the glue”: Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives. As one volunteer said: Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.
- 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.
Without the powerful voice of an advocate, children too often return to unsafe homes or languish in long-term foster care, risking future abuse or neglect. As a CASA, you have the opportunity to change that outcome.
If interested, click on this link to locate a CASA agency in your area.