Frequently Asked Questions


 

  • What does a CASA volunteer do? A trained CASA volunteer gathers information for the court. He or she recommends to the judge what the child needs to be safe and what is in the child’s best interest for a safe, nurturing and permanent home. A CASA volunteer advocates for an appropriate decision that is made in a timely manner.

 

  • Why does a child need a CASA volunteer? When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson—an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, they also have other interests. CASA volunteers are usually assigned one case at a time. A CASA provides that child with a “voice in court.” A CASA gives individual attention to each case.

 

  • What is the difference between the CASA and a Social Worker? The roles are not the same. The CASA is independent from the social services system and focuses solely on the child. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker serves the entire family—parents and child—by providing direct services. DCFS caseworkers are not able to be a wholly independent voice because they are part of an agency that has already taken a position in the case by filing a petition and bringing the matter to court. Conversely, a CASA is an independent voice, advocating on behalf of one particular child.

 

  • Why does a child need both a CASA volunteer and an attorney? A CASA volunteer is able to spend as much time as is necessary to gather information about the child and the child’s familial system. A CASA serves at the request of a judge and provides a report on the best placement for a child. If a court had to pay an attorney to do this job, it would be too costly. A child’s attorney provides legal representation. The CASA volunteer and the child’s attorney can work as a team to represent the best interest of the child.

 

  • Why do CASA programs cost money to run, when volunteers are not paid? CASA programs hire staff to manage the program and supervise volunteers. Program costs include: salaries, office support, computers and equipment, travel and training. CASA staff members recruit, train and supervise volunteers to ensure quality services. National CASA has program standards that all CASA programs are required to meet.

 

  • Does the court listen to what a CASA has to say? Judges know their decisions are only as good as the information they receive. So, they count on CASA volunteers to be an independent voice and they know that CASA volunteers have more time to focus on specific cases. A CASA who can tell the court “I was there. This is what I observed.” is invaluable.

 

  • How do we know CASA volunteers are effective? Studies have shown CASA volunteers to be effective in reducing court costs, reducing stays in foster care and even in reducing rates of delinquency. A study conducted by the National CASA Association showed that children with a CASA volunteer spent approximately one year less in care than a child without a CASA. This represents a savings to taxpayers and it also means that a child finds a permanent and safe home more quickly.

 

  • How does CASA become involved in a case? Only a Judge can assign a CASA to a case. On occasion, the children’s or parent’s attorneys, the caseworkers’ attorney or the child’s foster parents, may request that the Judge assign a CASA.

 

  • To what types of cases is CASA assigned? CASAs are assigned to children already in the foster care system as a result of abuse, neglect and/or the parent's/guardian's inability to care for the child.

 

 

  • What are the responsibilities of a CASA? The role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate is different than a mentor or friend. Advocates make thorough inquires into dependency matters by speaking with all parties involved in the case and submitting formal written reports to the Court. The goal of a CASA is to move children efficiently through the child welfare system into safe, permanent homes where they can grow to be successful adults.

 

  • Is travel involved? Locally, yes. CASA volunteers make visits with their appointed child and attend court hearings, as well as agency and school conferences.

 

  • Do CASA volunteers work by themselves? Most of the time, CASAs work alone; however, staff is available to accompany Advocates to court or professional meetings when appropriate. In addition, CASAs maintain active contact with Advocate Coordinators for support and supervision.

 

 

  • How does the role of a CASA differ from an attorney? A CASA does not provide legal representation. That is the role of an attorney: in Arkansas, children involved in dependency proceedings are appointed their own attorney, who provides legal representation. Instead, the CASA advocates for the best interests of the child. The CASA provides crucial background information that assists judges in making the best decision for a permanent outcome.

 

  • How much time will I be expected to contribute each month? Each volunteer and each case is different. The amount of time devoted to a case depends on the specific family and the amount of time the Advocate has available. CASAs devote an average of fifteen hours per month. As cases unfold, the demands of research, interviews and report writing will vary. Some weeks will be busier than others.

 

  • How many children will I be working with if I become a CASA? The strength of the CASA Program is the appointment of one Advocate to devote the time and attention to a case that each child deserves. Each CASA typically works one case at a time: that may be one child, or several children in the same family. Occasionally, a CASA may take on another case if the first situation is close to resolution.

 

  • How effective is CASA? Judges have noted the value of the information that a CASA brings to the proceedings and are appreciative of the unique perspective presented by CASAs. In addition, national studies show that a child who has been assigned a CASA is more likely to secure needed services in a timely manner; is moved from placement to placement less frequently; is more likely to have his/her case reviewed regularly by the court; and has a better chance of living in a safe, permanent home than those who do not have CASA representation.

 

  • How are prospective Child Advocates screened? To be accepted into a training session, prospective Advocates must complete the application form (providing three non-relative character references), give permission for a background check and participate in an initial interview. Following classroom training, the prospective volunteer may participate in a final interview to determine if CASA is the right volunteer opportunity for them.

 

  • Do CASAs work in addition to volunteering on a case? Most CASAs work full or part-time, some are retired, and some do not work outside the home. Some of the advocate work a CASA does will be gathering information from caseworkers, attorneys and other professionals who work business hours. Therefore, it is important to be able to reach them in their offices.

 

 

  • How do I become a CASA? First step is to submit an application. After submitting your application, a CASA Coordinator will contact you to schedule an interview. Background checks will be conducted, and, if accepted into the program, you will be notified of the next available training schedule.
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