FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers do?
CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused and neglected children in family court. As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:
Serve as a Fact-finder: Thoroughly research the background of the assigned case
Be the Voice: Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, represent his or her best interests
Act as a "Watchdog": Ensure case is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion
How are CASA volunteers assigned to cases?
The Family Court Judge assigns 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:
Instability of the child's current placement
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?
Be committed: The average case lasts 18 months, 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.
Be objective: Volunteers research case records and speak to everyone involved in a child's life, including their family members, teachers, doctor, lawyer, social worker and others. Their third-party evaluations are based on facts, evidence and testimonies.
Be a communicator: Once a 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 recommendations to thecourt judge..
How do you become a CASA volunteer?
Persons interested in becoming a CASA volunteer must go through a screening process that involves completing an application, passing a background check and an initial in-person interview with CASA’s Volunteer Coordinator and a program staff member.
After passing the initial screening process, potential volunteers undergo a thorough training and development program that consists of at least 30 hours of in-class training, followed by 12 continuing education hours annually.
Training educates volunteers on courtroom procedure from the principals in the system: judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. CASA volunteers learn effective advocacy techniques for children, including specific topics ranging from 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 them the legal authority to conduct research on the child's situation, meet regularly with the child and submit recommendations to the court.
What does it mean to be a certified CASA/GAL program?
The nearly 1,000 local and state member CASA/GAL programs adhere to formal standards set by the 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 in order to evaluate and improve their operations.
Staff teams work together to answer almost 600 questions and gather 64 supporting documents for submission to the National CASA Association. Professionals outside the CASA/GAL 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 in order to maintain membership in the CASA/GAL network.
What is the annual cost to provide a volunteer advocate to one child?
The median cost per child is $1,140. Costs per child is based on program expenses and the total number of volunteers and children served.