A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a trained, citizen volunteer appointed by the Juvenile Court to ensure that the needs and best interests of abused, neglected, uncontrolled or wayward children are being met. CASA’s are assigned to dependent children who are under the Juvenile Court jurisdiction and are assigned at the discretion of the Juvenile Court.
Volunteers come from a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. Over half are employed full-time. Volunteers must be 21 or older, undergo a background check and a personal interview, complete the training curriculum, and agree to abide by the policies and guidelines of Phelps/Harlan County CASA. CASA Volunteers must be patient, open-minded people who have good communication skills, a history of following through on commitments, and a willingness to accept guidance. Above all, they must care about children.
CASA Volunteers have court-mandated access to certain information an proceedings, but they do not have the authority to decide outcomes. Rather, they rely on their communication skills, their informed recommendations and the respect of the courts to influence outcomes.
Being a CASA Volunteer is both rewarding and challenging. The child welfare system is bureaucratic and overburdened, and CASA Volunteers often have to work hard to get the system to respond. Because of court decisions, social service plans, and other factors out of our control, the volunteer can face disappointments. Travel may be an issue as foster children may be moved from placement to placement. These placements can be anywhere in the state. However, the biggest reward comes on the day when the child is placed in a safe, permanent home, and knowing they made a difference in a child’s life.
The most important benefit of being a CASA Volunteer is the chance to make a meaningful contribution to the life of a child who desperately needs your help. Many volunteers choose to stay in contact with their CASA “kids” even as they transition into adulthood.