This section is a compilation of answers to the questions most commonly asked by our constituents. Just start by following one of the links below. If you can’t find the question you wanted to ask, don’t hesitate to contact us.
- What is the role of the CASA?
- How does a Court Appointed Special Advocate investigate a case?
- How many cases on average does a Court Appointed Special Advocate carry at a time?
- How much time does it require?
- How does a Court Appointed Special Advocate differ from a County Children Services caseworker?
- How does the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate differ from an attorney?
- How does the CASA volunteer differ from a guardian ad litem?
- What if the recommendations of the Court Appointed Special Advocate are different than those of the attorney or social worker?
- Is there a "typical" Court Appointed Special Advocate?
- Can anyone be a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
- What training does a Court Appointed Special Advocate receive?
- What children are assigned to a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
- How does the Court Appointed Special Advocate relate to the child he/she represents?
- How many CASA programs are there?
- How effective have Court Appointed Special Advocate programs been?
- Do lawyers, judges and social workers support Court Appointed Special Advocates?
- What is the role of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (NCASAA)?
- Are there any other agencies or groups that provide the service?
- How did the Court Appointed Special Advocate program get started?
What is the role of the CASA?
A CASA provides a judge or magistrate with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child's future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA must determine if, in his/her opinion, it is in a child's best interest to stay with parents or guardian, to be placed in foster care or to be freed for permanent adoption or some other appropriate option. The CASA makes a recommendation on placement and services to the judge or magistrate and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does a Court Appointed Special Advocate investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. CASAs also observe interactions between the parent and the child, visit the parent's home, and review all documentation on the child. All this information is used to form a recommendation on the placement of the child and the services which the family needs to receive.
How many cases on average does a Court Appointed Special Advocate carry at a time?
The number varies according to the time the volunteers have available, but on average, each Court Appointed Special Advocate carries one (1) to three (3) cases.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different. When a case is initially assigned, a Court Appointed Special Advocate usually spends about 10 hours a month monitoring their cases. Usually, the bulk of your time is invested at the beginning of the case.
How does a Court Appointed Special Advocate differ from a County Children Services caseworker?
Caseworkers are employed by the county to provide services to the family. They sometimes work on as many as 10-15 cases at a time. The CASA is a volunteer with more time and a smaller caseload (on average, 1 to 3 cases at one time). The CASA does not replace a social worker on the case but is an independent appointee of the court who monitors both the actions of the family and the case plan activity.
How does the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate differ from an attorney?
The CASA does not provide legal representation. That is the role of an attorney. Instead, the CASA volunteer advocates for the best interest of the child. The CASA provides crucial background information that assists judges or magistrates in making the best decision for the child.
How does the CASA volunteer differ from a guardian ad litem?
CASAs and guardians ad litem share the same Order of Appointment and have the same statutorial mandates. In Summit County, the CASA may serve as GAL. In some cases, attorneys are appointed as guardians ad litem. In either instance, the CASA volunteer or the attorney guardian ad litem, work to ensure the child receives the best representation possible.
What if the recommendations of the Court Appointed Special Advocate are different than those of the attorney or social worker?
The Court deems both as valuable sources of information and will ask for both opinions.
Is there a "typical" Court Appointed Special Advocate?
CASAs come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educations and ethnic backgrounds. They are both male and female volunteers who are employed, retired, at-home parents, or full-time volunteers.
Can anyone be a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
CASAs are ordinary citizens. No special or legal background is required. However, volunteers are screened closely for objectivity, competence and commitment. CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years old and successfully complete a background check.
What training does a Court Appointed Special Advocate receive?
CASAs undergo a thorough training course. The training takes 35 hours over a period of time (some trainings are 1 week long, while others last up to 8 weeks). Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system--judges, lawyers, social workers, and court personnel. Court Appointed Special Advocates also learn effective advocacy techniques for children and are educated about specific topics ranging from child sexual abuse to how to give a report in court. The culmination of the initial training is the swearing-in ceremony with the Juvenile Court Judge, Linda Tucci Teodosio.
What children are assigned to a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
CASA volunteers are appointed to children who are in the Juvenile Court System for abuse, neglect, or dependency.
How does the Court Appointed Special Advocate relate to the child he/she represents?
CASA volunteers are not service providers for the child. The CASA interviews the child if the child is old enough to talk. If not, the CASA observes the child’s interactions with the various people involved in his/her life. Court Appointed Special Advocates offer the child trust, advocacy and stability during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening and the roles of the judge, lawyers and social workers play. The CASA volunteer also encourages the child to express his/her own opinions and hopes.
How many CASA programs are there?
There are over 500 CASA programs covering all 50 states. Over 33,000 volunteers serve as CASAs, and currently, 116,000 children have a CASA as their voice in court. In Ohio, there are currently 33 counties with CASA programs, including over 1, 000 volunteers advocates serving more than 3,200 children in need.
How effective have Court Appointed Special Advocate programs been?
Preliminary findings show that the children who have been assigned a CASA tend to spend less time in the court system and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that Court Appointed Special Advocate children have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children.
Do lawyers, judges and social workers support Court Appointed Special Advocates?
Yes, juvenile judges support the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the volunteers.
What is the role of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (NCASAA)?
The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association is a non-profit organization that represents and serves the local Court Appointed Special Advocate programs. It provides training, technical assistance, research, news and public awareness services to members. NCASAA is located in Seattle, Washington, and is funded through a combination of private grants, federal funds, memberships and contributions.
Are there any other agencies or groups that provide the service?
No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but Court Appointed Special Advocate is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
How did the Court Appointed Special Advocate program get started?
CASA began in 1977 when Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington first recruited community volunteers to speak as guardians ad litem for abused and neglected children in court. Judge Soukup felt frustrated that he was expected to make life-and-death decisions in the life of a child with no feedback from the child and only limited information from others involved in the case. He wanted to develop a way to bring more complete information to juvenile judges so that they could better protect children. CASA volunteers proved to be an effective way to help the courts avoid inappropriate and unduly long foster care placements. As a result, courts in other states began adopting the idea.
"I set out to change a child's life and realized I'd changed my own."
~ Bill Breiding, CASA