A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer is a trained community member appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. CASA Volunteers are not mentors or sponsors. Our CASAs are mature, responsible adults who are easy to talk to and who care deeply about bringing a brighter future to the abused and neglected children of Cole County.
A CASA is any person 21 years of age or older who is willing to undergo a background check, complete our 30 hour pre-service training and has passion for helping children.
Most children who enter the child welfare system do so because of abuse or neglect by their primary caregiver. This situation frequently leaves children without a strong adult in their lives to ensure they are safe and that their medical, educational, developmental and personal needs are met.
Social Service caseworkers and attorneys often have case loads of over 30 children, which can hamper caseworker’s ability to give individualized attention and support to the children they represent.
In 2018 approximately 214 children in Cole County were involved in the foster care system due to alleged abuse or neglect. These children have often been removed from everything familiar – home, family, friends and school – and find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are made on their behalf.
CASA serves children from birth to nineteen. The majority of the children are placed outside of their home with relatives, in foster homes, group homes, or shelters.
We’re proud to have a wealth of CASA Volunteers from different personal, educational and cultural backgrounds. More than half of our CASAs are employed in regular, full-time jobs. All of them share the same passion and determination to find a safe, permanent home for abused and neglected children.
As a CASA, you will be a well-respected and important member of the advocacy team for a child. Our intensive training program and ongoing support will help you expand your interpersonal skills, work with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures, and network with volunteers, professionals from other agencies and the court, and CASA staff.
The greatest benefit of all, though, is knowing you're helping a child heal, thrive and find the road home, wherever it lies.
The CASA Volunteer’s ultimate goal is securing safety for the child as quickly as possible. A CASA Volunteer provides the judge with carefully researched background on the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. The CASA Volunteer helps determine if it’s in a child’s best interest to be returned to the parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, be placed with relatives or be freed for permanent adoption.
Responsibilities include reviewing records, researching the child’s situation, regularly visiting the child wherever he/she is living, attending meetings concerning the child and family, writing recommendations to the judge before each court meeting and working with the CASA staff.
Often a CASA is the only constant in the life of an abused and neglected child who may be separated from his or her family and shuffled between court and foster homes. A CASA offers abused and neglected children comfort and support, and can free them from the cycle of abuse.
Children with CASA Volunteers are more likely to receive therapy, health care and needed educational services. Judges have observed that CASA children have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children, and children with CASA Volunteers find safe, permanent homes six months faster than children facing the court alone.
A CASA Volunteer usually spends 8 to 10 hours each month on his or her case. There may be court hearings and meetings to attend during the daytime hours, but phone calls and visits can be arranged on evenings and weekends.
CASA volunteers are appointed to children who have come to the attention of the juvenile court system due to abuse or neglect. Like a mentoring program, the CASA volunteer does develop a relationship with the child through frequent contact; however, the primary role of the CASA volunteer is to gather information about the child, write reports to the court and attend court hearings. CASA is not a mentoring program. The CASA volunteer does not involve the child in their personal life and does not play an active role in the child’s day-to-day life. Instead, the CASA volunteer is involved with the child and the case while the child is in foster care, to help him or her during this difficult time to help have the best possible outcome. Once the case has ended, the CASA volunteer role also ends.
CASAs are asked to dedicate themselves to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts approximately 12 to 18 months.
Yes! Many of volunteers with Capital City CASA maintain full-time jobs.