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Frequently Asked Questions

CASA Volunteer Advocates

What function do Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers serve?
CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused, abandoned and neglected children in the dependency system, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.

Who are the children who are selected to have a CASA volunteer advocate?
Children assigned a CASA volunteer have been abused, abandoned and/or neglected by their caregivers. They are assigned through dependency court. 

As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer advocate assumes the following four core responsibilities:

  1. Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching and investigating the current and background facts of each assigned case.
  2. Provide these facts in report form to the judge and to speak for the child in the courtroom, representing the child’s best interests.
  3. Facilitate communication between parties in the case.  
  4. Act as an overseer throughout the duration of the case, ensuring that it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion in the child’s best interests.

How are CASA volunteer advocates assigned to cases? 
Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases involving physical or sexual abuse and neglect. Several other factors are also considered in making this decision:

  • The instability of the child’s current placement
  • The presence of conflicting case information
  • Concerns about the implementation of special services, such as medical care, counseling and education assistance

What are the qualifications to become a CASA volunteer advocate?

  • Commitment: The vast majority of cases last one to two years, and the amount of time spent on a case per month typically averages 10 hours. Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide quality advocacy.
  • Objectivity: Volunteers research case records and speak to everyone involved in a child’s life, including their family members, teacher, doctor, lawyer, social worker and others. The CASA volunteer’s third-party evaluations are based on facts, evidence and testimonies.
  • Communication skills: Once a CASA volunteer has fully evaluated a case, they prepare a written report outlining their recommendation for the child’s placement. They must be able to speak with authority as they present their rationale to the judge in dependency court.

What is the process to become a CASA volunteer advocate? 

CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training and development program that consists of at least 30 hours of pre-service training, followed by 12 hours of yearly in-service training to become recertified. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system: judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. CASA volunteers also 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. After completion of the initial training, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court. This gives the CASA volunteer the legal authority to conduct research on the child’s situation and submit reports to the court.

Data

How many children in the dependency system are appointed a CASA volunteer advocate? 
Last year in Pennsylvania, nearly 725 CASA volunteers advocated for over 1,740 children in the dependency system.

What is the cost to a CASA program to provide a CASA volunteer to one child for a year? 
The national median cost per child is $1,140. Costs per child are based on program expenses and the total number of volunteers or children served.

Who are the children CASA helps in PA?
Judges appoint CASA volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect. CASA is appointed to children ranging in age from birth to 18, and can advocate for children up to age 21. In 2014, approximately 22,510 children were in Pennsylvania’s foster care system.  Currently there are not enough CASA volunteers to represent all of the children in care, hence, judges typically assign CASA volunteers to their most difficult cases.

PA CASA Information

What does it mean to be a certified CASA program? 
Local and state member CASA programs adhere to formal standards set by National CASA Association and are required to pass a quality assurance review, which is administered every four years. This self-assessment is a course of action taken by local programs to evaluate and improve their operations.  Staff teams work together to answer 400 questions and gather 58 supporting documents for submission to National CASA Association. Professionals outside the CASA network determine overall compliance by conducting an independent review of the standards self-assessment instrument and supporting documentation. Programs must address any compliance concerns within six months to maintain their certification.

How is Pennsylvania CASA Association funded?
Grants from state government, foundations, and the National CASA Association are the source of Pennsylvania CASA Association funding. Charitable foundations, business sponsorships, private contributions and individuals account for the balance, often raised through special events.  PA CASA is a 501c (3) non-profit organization.

How can I get involved in PA CASA?  What are the volunteer opportunities at the state-level?
Contact our office via this website if you are interested in volunteering. PA CASA needs people who can:

  • Become a member of the Board of Directors
  • Serve as committee members on such committees as legislative, public relations, governance, fund raising, website management, etc.
  • Assist with public relations
  • Help plan and lead fundraising special events
  • Serve as an administrative support for the PA CASA staff
  • Be an intern

Additional Information