A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer appointed by a Family Court Judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. CASA volunteers advocate for children who are victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment. They are appointed to represent the child’s best interests and serve as the eyes and ears of the court.
The CASA volunteer meets with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. They also review all records pertaining to the child’s case including education and healthcare. Then the volunteer is able to prepare reports and make recommendations to the court on the child’s status and needs.
Family Support Services (FSS) caseworkers work on numerous cases at a time and are responsible for the entire family. The CASA volunteer has one or two cases and concentrates primarily on the children. The CASA volunteer is an independent voice to the court.
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom. A CASA volunteer does not represent the child’s wishes she/he advocates for the child’s best interests.
Yes! Family Court Judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the volunteers. FSS and Law Guardians collaborate with CASA on our cases. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Office of Juvenile Justice.
Statistics show that children who have been assigned a CASA volunteer spend less time in the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that children assigned to a CASA volunteer also have better chances of finding permanent homes than children who are not assigned a CASA volunteer.
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. This year, First Circuit CASA had 48 active volunteers who advocated for over 70 children. Approximately 40% of our volunteers are actively employed.
A CASA volunteer usually spends between 5 and 20 hours per month doing research, conducting interviews, attending meetings, and visiting the child. This varies depending on the circumstances of the case. The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved for approximately 12 to 24 months. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other professionals who change throughout the case, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure and provides continuity for the child.