CASA FACT SHEET
What is a CASA Volunteer?
A Court Appointed special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in juvenile court. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect.
What is the CASA volunteer’s role?
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in the child’s best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical and social worker reports; and other documents.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a CYFD social worker?
CYFD (Children, Youth & Families Department) social workers are State employees. They sometimes work on as many as 20 cases at a time and are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each. The CASA volunteer has more time and a smaller caseload (an average of 1-2 cases at a time). The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child’s case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the court independent of state agency restrictions.
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation. That is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists the judge in making a more informed decision. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they tell the court what the child’s wishes are, and then they exercise their own independent judgment to determine whether those wishes are actually in the best interest of the child.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 77,000 CASA volunteers nationally who helped 234,000 abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes. Aside from their CASA volunteer responsibility, 70% are employed in regular full time jobs. Nationwide, 80% are women; 20% are men.
How does the CASA volunteer relate to the child he or she represents?
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reasons they all are in court, and the roles the judge, lawyers, and social worker play. CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers.