Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm Going to be a CASA

Ok, it's not like I have SO much time on my hands to spare these days but this subject has really, I mean REALLY been weighing on my mind to get involved in and so I am jumping in feet first and am really excited about it.
That is joining and becoming a member of CASA. 
There is a part of me that has always regretted not going to college and then on to Law School. It was always a dream of mine to be in a court of law and also to help Children in need. 
I have been one of those kids. 
Ending up in Foster Care and in the System, I know a thing or two about how children feel and react to adversity in their family. I do know that so many kids in bad situations fall through the cracks and live miserable lives. 
Perhaps I can change that? I hope so.
As I said, I am super excited about this. Classes start in February and last 6 weeks and a few Saturdays. I hope I can be a "Voice" for some child out there that needs to be heard.  I've always felt I would like to take in Foster Kids some day and this may be the start of something new....

Maybe this information will give someone else the impetus to help children in your community to be heard.  If we can help even just ONE child, we have done something good.
I Hope So.
Love Always,

What is a CASA you might ask?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect, and have been removed from their homes. Children helped by CASAs include those for whom placement is being determined in juvenile court.

What is the role of a CASA?

A CASA provides a judge with carefully researched background details about the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA must determine if the best interest of the child is staying with their parents or guardians, being placed in foster care, or being freed for permanent adoption. The CASA makes a recommendation on placement to the judge and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.

How do CASAs investigate a case?

To prepare a recommendation, the CASA talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CASA also reviews all records pertaining to the child including school, medical, case worker reports and other documents.

How are CASAs different from social service caseworkers?

Social workers generally are employed by state governments, sometimes working on as many as 30 cases at a time; they are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each case. The CASA has more time and a smaller case load (average of 1-2 cases). The CASA does not replace a social worker on a case; they are an independent appointee of the court. The CASA thoroughly examines a child's case, knows about various community resources and makes recommendations to the court, independent of other involved parties.

How are CASAs different from attorneys?

The CASA does not provide legal representation in the courtroom-that is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASAs do not represent a child's wishes in court. Rather, they speak for the child's best interests.

Is there a "typical" CASA?

CASAs come from all walks of life and possess a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 70,000 CASAs nationally. Local programs vary in number of volunteers they utilize. Aside from their CASA work, 64 percent are employed in full- or part-time jobs; the majority tend to be professionals with 58% being college or university graduates. The majority (82%) of the advocates nationwide are women.

How do CASAs advocate for children?

Through developing a relationship with a child, CASAs find out what the child wants and needs. By using their advocacy power, CASAs learn if education, counseling, or improved parenting will give children their best chance for safe and happy childhoods. It is within this role that CASAs best serve children, the court system, and ultimately their own communities. But the greatest benefit is to Arizona's children!

How many cases does a CASA carry at a time?

The number varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but an average case load is one to two.

Do lawyers, judges and social caseworkers support CASA?

Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint advocates. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Does the federal government support CASA?

CASA is a priority project of the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The office encourages the establishment of new CASA programs, assists established CASA programs, and provides partial funding for the National CASA Association.

How many CASA programs exist?

There are now 930 CASA programs in every state across the country, including Washington DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arizona has a program for each county or a total of 15 offices.

How effective are CASA programs?

Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASAs tend to spend less time in the foster care system and received more services than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that children with a CASA also have better chances of finding permanent homes.

How much time is required to advocate?

Each case is different. CASAs typically volunteer between 15 - 20 hours a month.

How long does a CASA remain involved?

The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate through cases, the CASA is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.

Are there other agencies or groups providing a similar service?

No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child's best interests.

What children are assigned CASAs?

Children who are victims of abuse and neglect and become wards of the court are assigned CASAs. The program is most common in juvenile and family court cases.