A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to speak up and be the voice for abused, abandoned, and neglected children in court. CASA volunteer advocates listen first. Then they act.
CASA volunteer advocates are ordinary citizens who care about children and have common sense. No special social work or legal background is required. Volunteer advocates are screened closely for objectivity, competence, and commitment. You must be 21 years old and pass background checks, provide references, and participate in an interview. You must be willing to complete a 30 hour pre-service course and agree to stay with a case until it is closed. On the average, cases last 18 months. You must be available for court appearances, with advance notice. Once on a case, you are supported by professional staff.
CASA volunteer advocates undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA program. Training requirements vary from program to program, but an average course is approximately 30 hours. Volunteer advocates learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system-from judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel, and others. CASA volunteer advocates 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.
A CASA volunteer advocate is appointed to the case by the judge and provides a judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. The CASA volunteer advocate helps to determine if it is in a child’s best interest to return to his or her parents or guardians, be freed for adoption, or live with a relative. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
As a child advocate, the CASA volunteer has four main responsibilities: