If you’re here because you’re wondering, “What is a CASA volunteer?” you are likely one of the tens of thousands of people who are hoping to make a difference in a child’s life. By volunteering for the CASA program, which is available in every state in the country, you can directly influence a child’s life for the better. Here’s a quick primer on CASA, what will be required of you, and how training happens.
What Does CASA Stand For?
CASA stands for “court appointed special advocate.” These advocates are volunteers who are appointed by judges in local jurisdictions to advocate for foster, abused, and neglected children in court, during hospital visits, at school, and more. These are adults with no criminal records, a clean driving record, and come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures; the only true requirement is a commitment to the training and to the children they are partnered with during the length of their case.
Duties of a CASA Volunteer
CASA volunteer duties are numerous and include reviewing documents and writing reports that will be submitted to the court. They also work closely with their child’s family, school teachers, doctors, and lawyers to recommend services that the child needs or would benefit from; this includes bringing concerns about the child’s mental health or abuse situations to the appropriate authorities. The most important duty a CASA volunteer has will always be to the child they are tasked with protecting. They work with the child, helping them to understand what is happening in terms of court cases, appear in court to speak about the child’s best interests, and make sure that the child is getting the help they need.
CASA Volunteer Training
CASA training begins with 30 hours of pre-service training. A volunteer is continuously supported with continuing education, online resources, conferences, and mentors. Throughout their work, a volunteer will continue to train, learning new laws and educating themselves on the services that the child in their care needs. Because court appointed special advocate volunteers work with abused and neglected children, the need for current training is necessary in order to ensure that the child’s best interests are always at the front of the volunteers’ minds.
Although the time spent on each case varies, being a CASA volunteer is a definite time commitment. In addition to the training, volunteers are required to attend court, doctor appointments, and spend time with the child. On average, CASA volunteers are asked to commit to seeing one case through to its end. Some volunteers spend as little as ten months on a case while others can be advocates for 18 months or more. Because a CASA volunteer works closely with a child, the longer they can commit to a case, the better the outcome becomes for that child, which is why volunteers often spend over a year with the same case.
The need for CASA volunteers is dire; there are currently 428,000 children in foster care every year, with an additional 200,000 children spending some time in state care during the year. Last year more than 251,000 foster children were appointed CASA volunteers. Every child deserves a chance, and now that you’ve found the answer to the question “What is a CASA volunteer?” perhaps now you can seriously consider helping one of the children.
Related resource: What is the Difference Between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?