The Iowa Court Appointed Special Advocate Program recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to serve as an effective voice in court for abused and neglected children, strengthening efforts to ensure that each child is living in a safe, permanent and nurturing home. The Court Appointed Special Advocate is typically assigned one case at a time and does a variety of things to promote the child's best interests: investigation, assessment, facilitation, monitoring and advocacy.
CASA's most important duties are to maintain contact with and collect information from the child's parents; the attorneys and guardians ad litem involved with the case; DHS workers; and, foster parents, therapists, teachers, doctors, relatives and anyone else who has knowledge of the child's situation. Often, a CASA's interactions with all of these people facilitate helpful communication among those involved with the child that might not otherwise occur.
CASAs also attend pre-placement and placement review staffings regarding the child, as well as all family team meetings and court hearings. They collect and review all records pertaining to the child they are assigned, including court files, state agency (DHS) files, school records and medical records. The CASA is always required to treat the information they collect according to all relevant confidentiality laws and rules.
CASAs are required to regularly submit reports to the Court that present the facts of the case, that describe how the Court's orders are being followed and that offer recommendations regarding the child's best interests.
CASA volunteers average around 10 hours per month working on their case. This varies considerably depending on the complexity of the case and the number of children in the sibling group. Initially, when first assigned their case, the CASA will probably spend more time while making their initial contacts and reviewing the records. Extra time is also spent in the month prior to the hearing, when the CASA is preparing their report to the Court.
After completing the application process and passing the screening requirements, each volunteer must complete a mandatory pre-service training curriculum, which consists of 30 hours of instruction in the child welfare system, juvenile law and legal procedures, child development, family dynamics, child abuse and neglect issues, interviewing and report writing techniques, advocacy skills and child permanency factors.