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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer?
What does a CASA volunteer do?
Why does a child need a CASA volunteer?
What is the difference between the CASA and a Social Worker?
Why does a child need both a CASA volunteer and an attorney?
Why do CASA programs cost money to run, when volunteers are not paid?
Does the court listen to what a CASA has to say?
How do we know CASA volunteers are effective?

What is a Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer? A CASA volunteer is an officer of the court. A judge appoints a special advocate to represent the best interest of an abused or neglected child in court proceedings.

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. The CASA is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interest of the child. CASA volunteers are assigned one case at a time. One CASA per each child to provide 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.

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