Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions About the CASA Program
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer?
A CASA volunteer is an officer of the court. A judge appoints a special advocate to represent the best interests of an abused or neglected child in court proceedings.
What does a CASA do?
A trained CASA gathers information for the court. He or she develops a trusting relationship with an assigned child and makes written recommendations to the judge for the safety and well-being of the child and for the child’s timely placement in a loving and permanent home. A CASA advocates for a speedy decision that considers a child’s sense of time.
Why does a child need a CASA?
When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson—an objective adult to speak on his or her behalf and provide to the court independent information about his or her best interests. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child as well, they also have other interests, and some have responsibilities to many other children in the system. The CASA is the only person in the case focused on one child or sibling group. CASA are assigned one case at a time – one CASA volunteer to one case – to provide the child a “voice in court”. A CASA gives individual attention to each case
An abused or neglected child has come from a world of chaos and instability. For the child, there is fear: fear of being hurt, fear of being alone, and fear about the future. For children who are in out-of-home placements, there can be many changes in schools and homes before a decision is made about where the child should live. A CASA can be the sole source of stability and comfort to fill an enormous void in the child’s life. A CASA is a trusted, dependable adult who doesn’t go away and who gives the child hope for a better future.
How did CASA begin?
In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. From that first program has grown a network of nearly 1,000 CASA and Guardian Ad Litem programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Child Advocates of Nevada County was established in 1994 to serve the dependent children of Nevada County.
What is the difference between the CASA and a Social Worker?
The roles are not the same. The Child Welfare Services social worker serves the family—parents, and child—by providing direct services. CWS caseworkers are not able to be a wholly independent voice because they are part of the agency that has already taken a position in the case by filing a petition and bringing the matter to court. The CASA is independent from the social services system and focused primarily on the child, not the parents. A CASA is an independent voice, not part of a government agency that may be constrained by rules and regulations, agency policies, and fiscal limitations. The CASA is an officer of the court, and considered to be “the eyes and ears” of the court.
Why does a child need both a CASA and an attorney?
A CASA serves at the request of a judge and provides a report on the child’s needs and the best placement for the child. To gather information and understand the child’s needs, a CASA spends time with the child and the child’s family as needed. The child’s attorney provides legal representation and has many children on his or her caseload. The CASA and the child’s attorney can work as a team to represent the best interests of the child.
Why do CASA programs cost money to run, when volunteers are not paid?
CASA programs hire staff to manage the program and supervise volunteers. Program costs include: salaries, office support, computers and equipment, travel and training. CASA program staff members are responsible for recruiting, screening, training, supervising and supporting volunteers to ensure quality services. National CASA has program standards that all CASA programs are required to meet.
How are CASA programs funded?
In California, CASA programs are supported through contracts with the state Judicial Council. In addition, CASA programs are locally supported. Fundraising events, annual giving, and grants provide ongoing support. National CASA has a grant system to help start or expand programs, but local CASA programs depend on their communities to support the service.
Does the court listen to what a CASA has to say?
YES! The CASA program was founded by a judge and is strongly supported by our local judges, who know their decisions are only as good as the information they receive. They count on CASA to be an independent voice and they know that CASA have spent time understanding the case. A CASA who can tell the court, “I was there, and this is what I observed” can be invaluable.
How do we know CASAs are effective?
Studies have shown CASA to be effective in reducing court costs, reducing stays in foster care and even in reducing rates of delinquency and children in need of supervision (CHINS). A study conducted by the National CASA Association showed that children with a CASA spent approximately one year less in foster care than a child without a CASA. This represents a savings to taxpayers and it also means that a child finds a permanent, safe home more quickly.