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Court Appointed Special Advocates of Atlantic and Cape May Counties and its trained volunteers speak on behalf of abused and neglected children in the foster care system and are dedicated to ensuring these children are placed in safe permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Each year over 500,000 children in the United States are thrust into court through no fault of their own. Some are victims of violence, psychological torment of sexual abuse. Others have been neglected or abandoned by their own parents. Most of them are frightened and confused.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program was created in 1977 to make sure that the abuse and neglect that these children originally suffered at home doesn't continue as abuse and neglect at the hands of the system.
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 interest.
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.