The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer is assigned to a child/children involved in a dependency case. The Volunteer speaks up for the child’s best interests and continues on the case in order to ensure that there is permanency in the child’s life. The Volunteer conducts an independent, fact-gathering mission to provide the judicial system with enough information to make a permanency plan for each child involved. The CASA volunteer’s only job is to speak for the child, to assure his or her best interests do not get overlooked while in protective custody and to assist in having the child/children placed in a safe, nurturing, permanent home as quickly as possible.
- To gather information to ascertain the facts and circumstances of the child’s situation.
- To seek cooperative solutions (with DFCS case managers, parents, relatives, other agencies, etc.) which will serve the child’s best interests.
- To seek a permanent plan for the child, in a permanent placement.
- To maintain strict confidentiality of all information related to a child or their families.
- To provide written reports of findings and recommendations to program staff at least five business days prior to court hearings or Citizen Review Panels.
- To attend court hearings and Citizen Review Panels to represent the child’s best interests.
- To communicate regularly with program staff about the case and steps taken to ensure the best interest of the child is advocated.
- To maintain genuine care and concern for the best interest of the child.
- To successfully complete the pre-requisites of the CASA screening process.
- Must be at least 21 years old (by swearing-in date)
- Complete a personal face-to-face interview with a member of the CASA staff.
- Undergo a criminal background investigation including fingerprinting.
- Successful completion of the 30+ hour pre-service training program.
- Commitment of at least 18 months to the CASA program as an “Active Volunteer”
- Earn 12 hours of in-service training credit annually.
Thank you for considering volunteering your time with the Cobb County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program. I am delighted that you are interested in improving the lives of abused and neglected children. Please read the enclosed information, which explains this volunteer opportunity in greater detail.
Important Questions to Consider Before Committing to Become a CASA Volunteer
You have the best of intentions in wanting to become a CASA volunteer. However, since we ask for a long and sometimes difficult period of commitment, it is vital to the
children, the Court, the CASA Program, and yourself that you make this decision based on full knowledge of your own expectations and those of the program. Please take time to seriously consider the implications of the following questions and statements.
- Do you have the time? Two to four hours per week may not seem like much time at all, but don’t be fooled. Think of the times you finally finish work and dread going to an evening meeting or, after feeding your family, taking a pet to the vet and returning home just to write a report. How many times have you wished you had just one hour to yourself? If your CASA children call on a free Saturday afternoon and need to talk, are you willing to give up a weekend afternoon? Will you really make the time, not only to see the children every 30 days, but also to see teachers, caseworkers, parents and others? Is your work schedule flexible enough to allow you to attend a court hearing? Can you truly commit 18 months to the children and program?
- Have you recently gone through changes? In what shape and how stable is your own life? Have you recently had a life change such as divorce or marriage or medical problems? Have you lost someone especially close? Have you started a new job or had a baby or other persons added to your family? Are you still healing from your own neglect or abuse, and if so, how close to the surface are those feelings?
- Is your work or school pressure likely to change? Are you seeking employment? Are you about to take on a new position or add responsibility to the one you have now? Is there a real possibility you’ll be transferred within the next year and a half? Are you entering your senior year at college and expect extra pressure? Do you expect to graduate and likely leave the community within the next 18 months?
- What about your family? Do you already sometimes feel as though you aren’t spending enough time with your own family? Do you have large or especially intense family responsibilities? Have you talked with your family about taking on this role? How do they feel about it?
- What kind of role model will you be? Have you had positive experiences with your own or other children in the past? Are you comfortable with children and aware of their need to be the children they are? Are you mature enough to be the adult a child could count on to speak up for them? Are you mature enough to do that speaking with angry parents, difficult professionals, attorneys attempting to make you look incompetent, judges and, most important, again, a hurt, wondering and frightened child? Can you maintain the confidentiality required of this role?
- Why do you want to volunteer with this program? Are you looking to be a child advocate rather than a mentor to a “little brother” or “little sister”? Are aware that the CASA volunteer is not a heroine or hero, charging in on a silvery steed to save these children from harm? Do you know that the children will not think you’re the best thing since sliced bread? Can you agree that it is not your role to teach these parents a lesson or straighten out the system? Do you understand that this experience will not lead to an offer of employment?
- Do you need immediate results/rewards? Are you able to await factual substantiation before making up your mind about parents and others? Are you able to maintain a high level of energy over a period of months, even if you feel the system should have acted differently in the beginning? Can you accept that others may need a much longer time to accomplish things you have already done or can do in a short order?
- Can you avoid feeling “it’s my way or the highway”? Can you agree that other people’s lifestyles, though different from yours, can be acceptable for children provided they aren’t illegal or harmful to the children in a specific, provable way? Do you understand that it is the judge who makes the final decision?
- How strong are you? With the help of the CASA staff, other CASA volunteers and your friends and family, can you take care of yourself through emotionally stressful and powerful periods so that we don’t abandon the children?
- Can you let go? After 18 months of intensive advocacy for “your” kids, will you be able to stand back to let the birth parents (or surrogate parents chosen by the court) take on their proper responsibility? Can you remember to be the adult so the children can just be children? Can you move on and let them do the same?
Welcome to the world of CASA—a world of difficult questions and hard decisions. It is our hope that rather than being threatening in any way, this material is helpful to you in making your first big decision – “Should I go on?” If you would like to discuss any of the questions or statements please call the Juvenile Court of Cobb County CASA Program Coordinator at 770-528-2285.