What does it mean to be a CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers are people who become stable, caring friends to abused and neglected children and strong voices in court on their behalf. A volunteer establishes a one-on-one relationship with a foster child and gives 2-3 hours per week to advocate for that child’s safety and best interest. Appointed by the court, CASAs ensure that our foster children don’t get lost in an overburdened system. No special experience is needed to volunteer – all that is required is the desire and commitment to change a child’s life.
Frequently Asked Questions:
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 dependency court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in juvenile dependency court. Most of the children are victims of abuse or neglect and live in foster care.
HOW AND WHEN DID CASA OF SISKIYOU COUNTY GET STARTED?
This CASA of Siskiyou County program began in February of 2004 in response to abuse and neglect of children in our county, which has one of the highest per capita rates of child abuse and neglect in the state.
HOW MANY CHILDREN NEED A CASA IN SISKIYOU COUNTY?
As of November 2019, there were approximately 150 dependent children in Siskiyou County. This is one of the highest per capita rates of dependent children in California. Most, if not all, of these children could use a CASA volunteer to be a voice for them.
IS CASA OF SISKIYOU COUNTY THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND?
No, we are one of over 900 independent CASA programs nationwide. California has 41 other CASA programs, but our local program serves the children in Siskiyou County exclusively.
HOW DID CASA PROGRAMS GET STARTED?
In 1976 a Seattle judge, concerned about not having sufficient evidence with which to make decisions involving children victimized by abuse and neglect, conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. Today a CASA’s objective, unbiased recommendation to support the best interest of a child is considered an invaluable aid to the judge.
DO LAWYERS, JUDGES, AND SOCIAL CASEWORKERS SUPPORT CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges choose to implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint CASA volunteers. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE CASA PROGRAMS?
Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time in the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA advocated children also have better chances of finding permanent homes.
ARE THERE OTHER AGENCIES OR GROUPS PROVIDING A SIMILAR SERVICE?
No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF A CASA VOLUNTEER?
- Spend consistent, weekly time with your CASA child to provide support and consistency.
- Keep an eye out for any unmet needs of the child and advocate for those needs to be met.
- Gather information about the child’s life by talking with everyone involved in his/her life.
- Based on your knowledge of the child and his/her needs, make recommendations to the judge about the child’s best interest and need for a permanent, safe home.
- Monitor the case by doing all of the above until the child is placed into a safe, permanent and nurturing home.
HOW LONG IS THE CASA TRAINING?
The total training lasts about 32 hours. Currently, we offer a flexible curriculum that integrates self-paced online learning with three in-person classes, plus a court observation. The training covers many important topics such as common causes for neglect and abuse, cultural humility, court proceedings, confidentiality, court report writing, and child development.
WHAT AGE DO YOU HAVE TO BE IN ORDER TO BE A CASA?
You must be at least 21 years of age to be a CASA volunteer. Those under 21 are welcome to help with special office projects, outreach and fundraising.
CAN I WORK FULL TIME AND STILL BE A CASA?
Yes, most advocates work in addition to volunteering. In fact, half of all CASAs nationwide have full-time employment in addition to serving as an advocate.
HOW MANY HOURS A WEEK DOES IT TAKE TO BE A CASA VOLUNTEER?
Each case is different. We ask that CASA volunteers make a weekly commitment of 1-3 hours.
WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF THE CASA VOLUNTEER’S COMMITMENT?
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child. On average, dependent children spend about two years in foster care, so we ask for a two year commitment from our volunteers, or a commitment until the child is in a safe and permanent home.
I TRAVEL OCCASIONALLY; WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO DO THAT AS A CASA?
Yes. Consistency is one of the prime functions of a volunteer, but most volunteers take occasional vacations. We ask that you communicate with your case supervisor and your CASA child in advance of a travel date. Consider sending a post card to your CASA child or staying in touch by phone.
DO CASA VOLUNTEERS HAVE TO GO TO COURT?
Yes. Typically, volunteers go to court 2-3 times a year. One of the most important and rewarding aspects of being a CASA is making recommendations to the Court for your CASA child. Judges rely heavily on this testimony to make informed decision on the future of your child. Court hearings are typically scheduled every six months, and you will usually know the date of your CASA child’s hearing well in advance.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE AN ATTORNEY, OR HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM TO BE A CASA VOLUNTEER?
No. CASAs are volunteers from all professions, cultural, ethnic and educational backgrounds. No specific or previous experience is needed. CASA of Siskiyou County provides the training you will need.
WILL I HAVE SUPPORT IN COURT?
Yes, there will be a CASA staff person there with you as a support person.
CAN I BRING MY CHILDREN WITH ME WHEN I’M VOLUNTEERING AS A CASA?
No. CASA children need one-on-one time with their volunteer. This is an independent role that will be separate from your family.
CAN I TAKE MY CASA CHILD HOME WITH ME FOR VISITS?
No. For many reasons, which will be discussed in training, volunteers are not allowed to take children to their homes.
DO CASA VOLUNTEERS MEET THE PARENTS OF THEIR CASA CHILD?
Most often, yes. CASA volunteers speak with everyone involved in their CASA child’s life, including parents, teachers, social workers, foster parents, mental health and medical providers. If you feel uncomfortable meeting with anyone, you may request a CASA staff person to go with you.
CAN I CHOOSE TO ADVOCATE FOR A CHILD WHO LIVES CLOSE TO MY HOME, SO I DON’T HAVE TO TRAVEL TOO FAR?
Probably not. Although we will try to match you with a child in your area, there are foster homes throughout the county, and children in foster care are sometimes moved from home to home. Your CASA child may not remain in the home she/he was in when you first met.
TO WHOM DOES A CASA VOLUNTEER TURN WITH QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS?
Every volunteer has a case supervisor. Our Advocacy Supervisor is available to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Our job is to support CASA volunteers.
HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BECOMING A CASA VOLUNTEER?
For more information, please contact the Y.E.S. office or feel free to browse our website. You can also learn more about National CASA at https://nationalcasagal.org/
CAN I VOLUNTEER WITHOUT TAKING ON A CASE/CHILD?
Yes, there are many ways you can volunteer, including fundraising, serving on a committee, office help and outreach.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a trained, citizen volunteer appointed by a dependency court judge to investigate the circumstances of a child who has been removed from his/her home because of abuse or neglect. The information a CASA provides to the court assists the judge in making more informed decisions about the children who appear before him/her.
Anyone over the age of 21 who is committed to helping children may apply to become a CASA volunteer. No special educational background is required, but volunteers must have good communication skills, common sense and good problem solving skills. CASA volunteers need to have access to a car, have a good driving record and be able to show proof of state-required automobile liability coverage. Volunteers must also undergo a thorough background check.
REQUIREMENTS & RESPONSIBILITIES:
- Complete the 30-hour training program through CASA of Siskiyou County
- Make a commitment to serve as a CASA for a minimum of two years
- Be willing to donate time each week to work on your child’s case
- Maintain regular contact with the child
- Maintain strict confidentiality
- Review appropriate records and reports
- Visit institutions, foster homes or group homes where the child is placed or may be placed
- Confer with counselors, teachers, social workers, foster care providers, attorneys, parents or other family members, etc. who may be involved with the case
- Maintain objectivity and professionalism in dealing with all other parties involved
- Maintain records of all findings and document all contacts made
- Submit monthly documentation of time spent and contacts made
- Maintain contact with the CASA staff
- Submit thorough, independent, written reports to the court two weeks prior to all court hearings
- Appear in court as needed to answer questions or testify on findings or recommendations
- Monitor court orders to ensure services to the child are being furnished in a timely manner and placement is appropriate
- Remain involved in the case until the court's jurisdiction is terminated
- Complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. CASA of Siskiyou County provides many educational opportunities.
There are a few restrictions to becoming a CASA volunteer. A CASA cannot be:
- A current foster parent
- In the process of adopting a child through the dependency system
- Involved in a dependency court matter
Volunteer With The CASA Team:
There Are Lots of Ways to Speak Up For A Child!
- Volunteer today in our CASA office with administrative duties
- Volunteer throughout the year at our major events
- Fundraise with our Executive Director
- Network in the community – pass out flyers