A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer is a trained citizen appointed by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge to advocate for the best interests of a child involved in an abuse or neglect case.
What is the role of the CASA Volunteer?
A CASA Volunteer provides the Judge with a detailed report, which includes carefully researched background information of the child and parents. This information is obtained to help the court make an informed decision about the child’s future. The Volunteer will visit the child at least 2 times a month, or once every 6-8 weeks if the child is placed into foster care outside of the program area. There are approximately three to four court hearings per year and the CASA Volunteer follows through on the case until permanency is achieved for the child(ren) which is at least 12 months but can be up to 18 months. The CASA Volunteer could be assigned 1 to 2 cases at a time.
How does a CASA Volunteer investigate the case?
The CASA Volunteer talks with the child(ren), parents, family members, Social workers, school officials, health providers, counselors, and other professionals who are knowledgeable about the child’s history and circumstances. The CASA Volunteer reviews records pertaining to the child, including school, medical and caseworker reports. The Code of Virginia (Section 9-173.12) specifically allows the CASA Volunteer to inspect and copy these records. The CASA Volunteer also conducts announced and unannounced visits to the parents’ homes, possibly over the weekend or in the evening. The CASA Volunteer also attends family visitations as well as family planning meetings at the Department of Social Services. Time commitments generally range from 15 to 20 hours per month and some of this time can be spent in evenings or on the weekends if necessary.
What training does a CASA Volunteer receive?
CASA Volunteers attend a thorough training course of approximately 30 hours, plus one (1) hour of courtroom observation. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedures, effective advocacy techniques, report writing, and investigation procedures. They also learn about child abuse and neglect, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), child development, domestic violence, substance abuse and other topics relating to children who are abused and neglected. Active CASA Volunteers must continue their training through a completion of 12 in-service credits annually.
Who can be a CASA Volunteer?
CASA Volunteers come from all walks of life. They have a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Volunteers may be working full or part time, or may be retired. Since training is provided for all CASA Volunteers, interested individuals do not need any special education or requirements. All CASA Volunteers must pass extensive background checks and are selected based on their objectivity, competence and commitment.
What is not the role of the CASA program/Volunteer?
The CASA Volunteer and staff do not offer legal advice, specific services or transportation for clients or their families. The CASA Volunteer is prohibited by regulation from questioning or inquiring of the child’s information regarding a precipitating incident or allegation involving child abuse and neglect.