The Need for Volunteers
Harrison County CASA Program, Inc. offers a volunteer opportunity like no other. As officers of the court, CASA volunteers are empowered to make a lifelong difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.
CASA is the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens as officers of the court. In an overburdened social welfare system, abused and neglected children often slip through the cracks among hundreds of current cases. CASA volunteers change that. Appointed by judges, CASA volunteers typically handle just one case at a time-and commit to staying on that case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. While others may come and go, CASA volunteers provide that one constant that children need in order to thrive.
The Volunteer Commitment
People who give their time to CASA advocacy come from many different places. Some have years of education and professional experience working for children and families. Some have themselves grown up in the foster care system and felt the sorrow of having to move from home to home.
Being a CASA volunteer does not require any special education or background, simply the desire to help abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes.
So what does it take to become a CASA volunteer?
- The first step: Every volunteer passes a background check and participates in a 30-hour training course.
- After successfully completing the training, the volunteer is assigned his first case. A volunteer's average time commitment to a case is approximately 10 hours per month.
- Volunteer advocates are asked to dedicate themselves to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half.
- Advocates are supervised every step of the way and always have resources readily available.
Volunteer Commitment Top Ten List
While CASA programs vary somewhat from state to state and community to community, the following are typical duties of a court appointed special advocate volunteer:
- Conduct an independent assessment by reviewing all pertinent documents and records and interviewing the child, parents, social workers, foster parents, teachers, therapists, daycare providers and other relevant persons to determine the facts and circumstances of the child's situation. To do this effectively, volunteers spend considerable time getting to know children and gaining their trust.
- Determine the thoughts and feelings of the child about the situation, taking into account the child's age, maturity, culture and ethnicity and degree of attachment to family members, including siblings. Also to be considered are continuity, consistency and a sense of belonging and identity.
- Seek cooperative solutions by acting as a facilitator among conflicting parties to achieve resolution of problems and to foster positive steps toward achieving permanence for the child.
- Provide written reports at every hearing which include findings and recommendations. The report documents the extent of the volunteer's investigation, lists each source of information and includes sufficient facts to justify the recommendations.
- Appear at all hearings to advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain the court proceedings and the role of the CASA volunteer to the child in terms the child can understand.
- Make recommendations for specific, appropriate services for the child and the child's family and advocate for necessary services which may not be immediately available.
- Monitor implementation of case plans and court orders, checking to see that court-ordered services are implemented in a timely manner and that review hearings are held in accordance with the law.
- Inform the court promptly of important developments including any agency's failure to provide services or the family's failure to participate.
- Advocate for the child's interests in the community by bringing concerns regarding the child's health, education and mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals to assure that the child's needs in these areas are met.