Right here in our community, abused and neglected children slip silently through the cracks of our court and foster care systems. These innocent victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment silently wait for the courts to decide their future. Sometimes a child can remain adrift in foster care for years. That’s where a CASA volunteer can make a difference, in helping that child reach a safe and permanent home.
What is CASA?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA volunteers represent the best interests of abused or neglected children during juvenile court and child protection proceedings. They are trained community volunteers appointed by a judge to serve as a child’s voice in court. CASA of the 16th JDC, Inc. is a nonprofit organization with both private and public funding sources. CASA volunteers:
*give special representation to abused children so they will not fall through the cracks of overworked and under-funded juvenile justice and child protection systems.
*work with all parties involved in a case to see that the child is placed in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.
*submit a recommendation to the judge advocating what they believe to be in the child's best interest.
*do not provide legal representation in the courtroom, nor do they replace a social worker.
*serve on only one or two cases at a time, providing more thoroughly researched information than other professionals could possibly provide given their case loads.
Who can be a CASA?
Anyone age 21 or older can submit an application; no special background is required. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Most are employed full-time. They are carefully screened for objectivity, competence and commitment. CASA volunteers must:
*complete an application form
*attend a personal interview with program staff
* consent to background clearances
*complete a 32-hour training course
*commit to serving at least one year
*attend 12 hours of in-service training after taking a case
Through the training course CASA volunteers learn about courtroom procedure, the social services system, and child abuse issues. After training, CASAs are sworn in by a juvenile court judge and appointed to a child abuse case which they follow to its resolution.