CASA of Central Texas recruits, trains and supports volunteer advocates to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children in foster care. CASA is part of a nationwide organization of Court Appointed Special Advocates with 946 chapters in 49 states, and more than 77,000 volunteers. CASA of Central Texas was established in 1985 and serves Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays counties.
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, is appointed by a judge to be an independent voice in court for an abused or neglected child.
What is CASA’s role?
The CASA provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. The advocate must determine if it is in the best interest of the child to live with the parent(s), be placed with relatives, remain in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The advocate makes a recommendation about placement to the court, and follows through until the case is permanently resolved.
The role of the advocate is:
– To be a fact-finder for the judge.
– To speak for the child in court, representing the child’s best interest.
– To act as a “watchdog” for the child during the life of the case, ensuring that the child’s needs are met and the case is resolved swiftly and appropriately.
How does an Advocate investigate a case?
Advocates talk with the child, parents, family members, caseworkers, school officials, health providers, therapists, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. Advocates review school, medical, caseworker reports and other documents regarding the child during the year the child is in foster care.
Is there a “typical” CASA?
CASA workers come from all walks of life, representing a variety of ethnic, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of our advocates are employed full-time, some are college students and some are retired. What they have in common is the belief that children deserve a safe and permanent home. Advocates must be at least 21 years of age and pass background checks. They must have a valid driver’s license, good driving record, proof of automobile insurance, reliable transportation, and the ability to be both compassionate and objective.
How does CASA relate to the child?
CASA explains to the child the events that are happening, why they are in foster care, and the roles the judge, attorneys, and caseworkers play. Advocates offer the children what no one else can: consistency and continuity in the midst of all the chaos the children are experiencing. In the course of a typical case, the child will experience several foster placements, new schools, caseworker turnover and ONE Advocate. The trust that is built allows the CASA to encourage the children to express their feelings and to feel safe. All the while the advocates remain objective observers.
How much time does being an Advocate take?
Each case is different, of course, but most cases require going to court 3 or 4 times during a one-year period to present a report with recommendations to the judge. More time is spent on a case when it is first assigned, as this is the more intensive fact-finding stage. As the case moves toward resolution, cases require less time. On average, an advocate donates about 15 to 20 hours per month.
How do the legal system and child welfare system view CASA?
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. CASA is described as “the eyes and ears of the court,” and frequently acts as “the arm and legs” of an overworked child protective system.
Which children are assigned CASAs?
Children who have been abused and neglected and have become wards of the court are assigned a CASA. Our counties (Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays) are unique in that there is a specific court established to hear the Child Protection Docket exclusively. Our goal is to provide an advocate to every child who needs one.
Where does CASA receive its financial support?
CASA is funded by the United Way, Texas CASA (our state affiliate), a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant, The Office of the Attorney General, Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, and a variety of additional local and regional private foundations. Additionally, CASA receives financial support from several local corporations, and we raise funds via special events each year such as our Annual Dinner & Dance with live and silent auctions. Finally, CASA receives support from a number of generous individuals and civic organizations.
What training does an Advocate receive?
CASA of Central Texas conducts five to seven training classes a year. The free, 44-hour course provides Advocates with an overview of courtroom procedure from judges, lawyers and caseworkers. Advocates are also educated about specific topics ranging from symptoms and effects of abuse and neglect to early childhood development and cultural diversity.