CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Volunteers work to help provide children in foster care with a safe, permanent home. CASA volunteers advocate for the children throughout the entire court process and report to the judges as to what is best for the children involved. The best interest of a child is to live in a safe, permanent home as soon as possible.
CASA Volunteers are assigned to only one family at a time, which allow them to spend much more dedicated time to a child whereas their caseworker can have upwards of 15 cases at a time. CASA's are also very well received by the families because CASA's are not part of the 'system'. They are trained community members, representing the children in our community.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do CASA Volunteers do?
CASA volunteers listen first. Then they act.
Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child's life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:
Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
Appear in court: Advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
Explain what is going on: Help the childunderstand the court proceedings.
"Be the glue": Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children's lives.
Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child's health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child's situation.
Who can be a CASA Volunteer?
You do not have to be a lawyer or social worker to be a volunteer. We welcome people from all walks of life. We are simply looking for people who care about children and have common sense. As a volunteer, you will be thoroughly trained and well supported by professional staff to help you through each case. You must be 21 years old, have a valid driver's license and pass a background check, and complete a 30 hour training.
How much time does it take to be a CASA Volunteer?
All volunteers must complete a 30 hour pre-service training, provided by CASA. The time commitment to a case varies depending upon the stage of the case. Volunteers sometimes say that there is a greater amount of work in the beginning of the case, when they are conducting their initial research. On average, you can expect to spend approximately 12-15 hours a month on a case.
Do I need to make a long-term commitment to the program?
You are asked to dedicate yourself to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half.
Do I need any special skills or meet any requirements?
No special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
Minimal Requirements include:
Be 21 years of age or older with a minimum high school diploma or GED
Have a reliable vehicle with proof of valid car insurance
Be willing to clear a criminal background check, personal reference check, central registry check, sex offender check, and participate in an interview
Complete of 30 hours of initial pre-service training, provided by CASA
Commit to 3-4 hours weekly, with a 1 1/2 year long-term commitment or until a permanent plan for the child(ren) has been implemented
Be available for court appearances, with advance notice
Additional Requirements include:
Meet weekly with a child in the foster care system
Maintain regular contact with all parties involved in the foster care case
Write monthly reports and keep detailed records of all contacts
Write quarterly reports to the court (with the help of CASA staff)
Attend all hearings and case meetings (typically help quarterly)
Complete 12 hours of additional hours of training annually
Respect the privacy of the child and the family and hold confidential all information obtained in the coarse of a service as a CASA, and program standards
Report any information disclosed that may result in harm to the child, the DHS worker and CASA Program Director or designated staff as soon as possible
Do no practice, condone, facilitate, or participated in any form of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, marital status, political belief, handicap or any other preference or personal characteristics or status
Participate in a yearly-required program evaluation of your performance
Request that the program terminate service to the child when it is no longer required or no longer a service the child needs
Decline appointment, withdraw, or request assistance when no longer able to devote time to the case
Have strong commitment to acting in the best interest of children
What support will I receive?
You will be supported every step of the way. CASA Volunteers have a strong network of support through the coordinator and other volunteers. This not only helps new volunteers get acquainted with the cases and process, but also acts as a support group for the tough situations we are faced with as a CASA Volunteer. You will have opportunities for continuing education and have access to online resources provided by National CASA, including a resource library, national Facebook community and national conference.
When is the next training?
The next training is scheduled to begin in June 2015, with applications being accepted through April 30th.
How do I become a CASA Volunteer?
Start by calling Sheryl Brink, CASA Program Coordinator, at (616) 396-2301 or viaemailto begin the process!
What other ways can I support CASA?
Spread the word to your friends, family and co-workers! Inviting CASA staff to present a program to their community or civic group, recruiting volunteers, requesting a donation, etc. Getting CASA information out in your workplace via e-newsletter, brochures in pay envelopes, etc.Organizing a fundraiser or contacting businesses for in-kind donations: food, prizes in connection with a special event or for volunteer recognition, office supplies, etc.
Hi ____! I thought you might be interested in learning more about CASA...I know what a dedicated person you are, and I think you really could be a powerful difference in a child's life.
Hi ____! I thought this might be something you’d be interested in. I know how dedicated you are to helping people, and I think a child could really benefit from having you as an advocate.
Presenting an in-service training workshop on a topic about which you have professional expertise
Upon completing the necessary training, provided by Sheryl Brink, the CASA Coordinator of Ottawa County, Court Appointed Special Advocates are sworn in as officers of the court by Judge Mark Feyen.
A Swearing-in involves a ceremony where friends and family, court personnel, the CASA Coordinator, the Executive Director of Pathways and the Judge gather together to celebrate the accomplishment of the individuals completing all the requirements of their training, much like a graduation of sorts. The Judge Speaks to the CASA’s about the importance of the new role and the value it has to the court, then has them take an oath of office, and declares them officers of the court. The CASA Coordinator then presents them with their certificates, their ID badge and business cards. Afterwards a reception is held to celebrate the new Volunteers.