CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was started in Seattle, WA in 1977 when a juvenile court judge expressed concern that the courts were deciding the fate of children removed from their homes without having sufficient information. Since that time, the CASA program has expanded into a network of more than 955 CASA programs in 49 states.
A CASA volunteer is a trained individual who is appointed by a juvenile court judge to speak for the best interest of children who are removed from their home due to abuse and neglect and brought before the court. The majority of a CASA volunteer’s assignments are home placement cases where the abused child has been removed for protection from the care of his or her parents or caretakers.
The CASA concept is based on the commitment that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. In court jurisdictions that have adopted this philosophy, the juvenile or family court judge turns to a specially trained pool of CASA volunteers each time a case involving an abused child is received. The volunteer then becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside the guardian ad litems and social workers as an appointed office of the court and as a voice for that child. The CASA volunteers speak exclusively for the child’s best interests.
By handing only one case at a time (compared to a social agency caseworker’s average caseload of 10 – 20 cases), the CASA volunteer has the time to explore thoroughly the circumstances surrounding each case. The volunteers becomes that one steady and consistent person in that child/ren’s life. They talk with the child, parent and family members, foster parents, school teachers, counselors and officials, doctors, counselors and any other person involved in the child’s background who might have facts or information about the child and the case. The volunteer also reviews all records and documents pertaining to the child and attends all multi-disciplinary team meetings and court hearings for that child. A CASA advocate then submits a formal report to the court making recommendations for the best interest of that child/ren in that particular case.