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The CASA concept is based on the commitment that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. In court jurisdictions that have adopted the program, the juvenile or family court judge turns to a specially trained pool of CASA volunteers each time a case involving a child is received. The 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. Unlike attorneys and social workers, however, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child's best interests. By handling only one or two cases at a time (compared to a social agency caseworker's average load of 60-90), the CASA volunteer has the time to explore thoroughly the history of each assigned case. The volunteer talks with the child, parents and family members, neighbors, school officials, doctors and others involved in the child's background who might have facts about the case. The volunteer then reviews all records and documents pertaining to the child. He or she then submits a formal report to the court recommending placement: should the child stay with his or her parents, be placed in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption? If the court leaves the child in temporary care, the CASA volunteer provides continuity by staying on the case until it is permanently resolved.
A CASA worker is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by a juvenile or family court judge to speak for the best interest of children who are brought before the court. The majority of a CASA volunteer's assignments are home placement cases where an abused and neglected child has been removed for protection from the care of his or her parents. Can anyone volunteer to be a CASA? CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens. No special or legal background is required. Volunteers are screened closely for objectivity, competence and commitment. What training does a CASA volunteer receive? CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA program. Training requirements vary from program to program, but an average course is approximately 24 hours. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system -- from judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel, and others. CASA volunteers also learn effective advocacy techniques for children, and are educated about specific topics ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior. Volunteer has three roles As a child advocate, the CASA volunteer has three main responsibilities: 1) to serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of each assigned case; 2) to speak for the child in the courtroom, representing the child's best interests; 3) to continue to act as a "watchdog" for the child during the life of the case, ensuring that it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion.
- Kimberly Hess
- (501) 328-3347
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