A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer appointed by a judge to speak up for the best interests of an abused or neglected child involved in a juvenile court proceeding.
Why have CASA programs?
Every child should have a safe, loving, and permanent home but many do not. Each year in Georgia, thousands of children become entangled in the juvenile justice and foster care systems because they are victims of abuse or neglect. A large majority of the children are taken from their homes and placed in an already overburdened system.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs provide an innovative, cost-effective approach to a very urgent crisis. CASA programs screen, train and supervise volunteers to provide individualized advocacy for these innocent victims. The CASA provides an independent source of information for the judge who must decide their future.
What does a CASA do?
CASA volunteers serve as the eyes and ears of the court. They interview anyone who may be able to shed light on the child’s needs—the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, neighbors, etc. The CASA then appears in court to make recommendations to the judge, based on the CASA’s independent assessment, about what is in the child’s best interest. The CASA remains involved to keep the focus on the child until the case is permanently resolved.
One of our Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) attorneys recently gave this definition of Why a CASA is important: “For me as a GAL, a CASA is so valuable – they are like Q to James Bond or Agent 99 to Maxwell Smart. I know on every case I have had, I would know considerably less and the Court would know less if there were not a CASA. That means they are such a strong voice for the children, regardless of the outcome. You know, I always fight for what I believe is right for these kids. The CASA is vital to that fight.”
How much time does it require to be a CASA?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 10-15 hours conducting research and interviews prior to the first court appearance. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work about 10 hours a month on each case.