Frequently Asked Questions
CASA Volunteer Advocates
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.
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:
- Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching and investigating the current and background facts of each assigned case.
- Provide these facts in report form to the judge and to speak for the child in the courtroom, representing the child’s best interests.
- Facilitate communication between parties in the case.
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.