Commonly asked questions with answers about CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
CASA of Child and Family Advocates of Cuyahoga County, is part of a non-profit, volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected and dependent children within the Juvenile Court system. We work independently, but in collaboration with our judiciary, agencies, guardians ad litem, and the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to find permanent and safe homes for children in the foster care system. The organization recruits, trains, and supervises community volunteers that are then supported by the Juvenile Court.
By helping to save a child from a life of abuse and neglect, we provide a safe alternative to the cycle of victims becoming abusers and passing on the heredity of violence. Abused and neglected children have an advocate who is committed to and solely focused on that child's welfare. Children with CASA volunteers are not faced with "falling through the cracks" of the child welfare system. In addition to giving back to the community, you will receive a charitable tax deduction and know that your dollars are impacting a human life.
It costs our organization approximately $1,000 per child for one year which covers all aspects of training, recruitment, and supervision by a professional staff. The cost savings of providing services through a non-profit organization with trained volunteers is immense.
The organization receives no state and some federal funding but must raise its operating budget (including in-kind time spent by volunteers) from private donations and grants. Operating a non-profit organization requires experienced professional staff to recruit, train, retain, and supervise the volunteers. There are also administrative, fundraising and operating expenses and it is required by law to remain transparent, compliant, and maintain the quality program our community expects.
CASAs come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. We have CASAs who work both full- and part-time jobs while others are retired. Commitment: Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide quality advocacy Objectivity: Their third-party evaluations are based on facts, evidence, and testimonies. Communication Skills: They must have good oral and written communication skills to paint the clearest picture to the Judge, present the facts, and collaborate with all parties of the case.
Nearly 100% of our volunteer's recommendations are accepted by the Judge. Children who suffer abuse and neglect are at a high risk of becoming juvenile delinquents - or worse - violent adult criminals. A major factor in preventing these outcomes is the presence of a concerned and consistent adult in that child's life. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the National CASA Association and found the following: Children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than 3 years in care: 13.3% for CASA cases versus 27.0% of all children in foster care. When a CASA volunteer was involved, both children and their parents were ordered by the courts to receive more services. Cases involving CASA volunteers are more likely to be "permanently closed" (i.e., the children are less likely to re-enter the child welfare system) than cases where a CASA volunteer is not involved.
The National and State CASA organizations represent and serve local CASA programs. All CASA programs must be accredited through a quality assessment in order to retain their membership status. There are 37 programs within the State of Ohio and 7600 CASA volunteers that advocated for 25,100 children last year and nearly 1,000 nationwide with 76,000 CASA volunteers and last year they advocated for 251,000 children.
No! There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA of CFACC is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child's best interests.
CASAs offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reason they are in court and the roles of the Judge, lawyers, and social workers. CASA volunteers also encourage the children to express their own options and hopes, while remaining objective observers.
Each case is different. When a case is initially assigned a CASA may spend several hours per week researching the case history and conducting interviews. Volunteers spend anywhere from 10-15 hours each month on their cases and visit with the children at least 1-2 times a month. Some cases may continue for two years or longer and volunteers are asked to commit until a case has been closed. Because caseworker and service provider turnover is high, often the CASA is the only consistent presence in the child's life.
Prospective volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, attend a general information meeting, interview with a Staff member and complete an application. CASA volunteers then go through a background check, fingerprinting and undergo a thorough training and development program that consists of 30 hours of pre-service training, followed by 12 hours of yearly in-service training. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system: judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. After completion of the initial training, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court. this gives them the legal authority to conduct research on the child's situation and needs, and submit reports to the court.
Social service caseworkers are employed by DCFS. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social service caseworker, she/he is a third party appointee of the court. Social service caseworkers often have caseloads of 20 or more children while each CASA is assigned to one or two cases at a time. The CASA volunteer is often the only consistent person advocating for the minors throughout the case who also holds their history and provides a caring and supportive person that the child can trust.