What Is a CASA Volunteer?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen appointed by a judge to represent a child victim in a case of abuse and neglect.

What Does a CASA Volunteer Do?

A CASA volunteer advocates help children who have been abused or neglected acquire the services they need and achieve permanency in a safe and nurturing home as quickly as possible. CASAs  interact with various individuals in the child's life and make recommendations to a judge based on the best interests of a child. CASA volunteers produce a report of their findings and present in to a judge, which ultimately helps the court to make a sound decision about the child's future. 

What Training Does a CASA Volunteer Receive?

CASA volunteers receive a combined total of 30 hours of in-person training. After the training in complete, the CASAs are sworn in by the family court judge and concludes their training with a mandatory 3-hour courtroom observation. Volunteers are also required to fulfill 12 hours of in-service training per year.

What Is the CASA Philosophy?

The CASA concept is based on the fact that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. A juvenile court judge appoints a volunteer to the child’s case. The volunteer then becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court. However, unlike attorneys and social workers, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child’s best interests. By handling only one or two cases at a time, the CASA volunteer has time to thoroughly explore the history of each assigned case. CASA is the only program in New Jersey where volunteers are appointed by the court to advocate on behalf of an abused or neglected child.

How Does a CASA Volunteer Investigate a Case?

To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, DCPP case workers, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child - school, medical, case worker reports, and other pertinent documents.

How Long Does a CASA Volunteer Remain Involved with a Case?

Our CASA program requires a minimum of a one-year commitment with the ultimate goal of the volunteer continuing until the case is permanently resolved and permanency has been achieved. 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.

How Much Time Does It Require?

Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 15 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteer advocates work anywhere from 4-20 hours per month depending on the complexity of the case to which they are assigned.

How Are CASA Programs Funded?

CASA programs depend on their communities to support them. Foundations, corporations, fundraising events, annual giving, and grants are just some examples of the ongoing support received by local CASA programs.

How Effective Have CASA Programs Been?

Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers are half as likely to re-enter foster care and are significantly less likely to spend time in long-term foster care. A child with a CASA volunteer is also more likely to do better in school and more likely to find a permanent home.