What is a CASA? CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASAs are objective, community volunteers who are not part of the child welfare system and focus their efforts solely on gathering information and making recommendations regarding children in abuse, neglect or dependency cases. These are children who have fallen as victims and found themselves in the court system due to no fault of their own. Volunteers are carefully screened and are very well trained; they receive a minimum 30 hours of initial training and 12 hours of ongoing training each year.
When appointed by the judge, CASAs research the case, review documents, interview people and make a report to the court regarding what is in the “best interest” of abused and / or neglected children in terms of services, placement, visitation, reunification and permanency.
CASA volunteers monitor the child’s situation ensuring their safety and basic needs are being met. Volunteers are often the only constant adult the child knows as they navigate through the child welfare system. When a CASA volunteer accepts a case, they must agree to follow through with it until the child has a safe, permanent home. Because most volunteers carry only 1 or 2 cases at a time and are assigned to each case for its duration, they typically have a depth of information that other parties may not have obtained. More importantly, unlike child protective service providers, a CASA is legislatively mandated to see the child more often, assuring stability and their voice is consistently heard.
A child with a CASA will, when compared with a child in a like circumstance without a CASA:
- Spend significantly less time in out of home care
- Will have fewer disruptions in placement
- Will have overall fewer number of placements
- Will receive increased services as will their parents
This indicates that they will, unlike many children in foster care, stay in the same school thus maintaining the same support system, the same teachers and the same service providers.