What is a CASA / CAJA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Court Appointed Juvenile Advocate (CAJA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
What is the CASA volunteer's role?
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child's best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, be placed with other relatives, or be freed for permanent adoption.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child -- school, medical and case worker reports; and other documents.
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation. That is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases.
Is there a "typical" CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 59,000 CASA volunteers nationally. Aside from their CASA volunteer responsibility, 50 percent are employed in regular full-time jobs.
How many cases on average does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?
The number varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but an average caseload is one to two.
How many CASA programs are there?
We have 10 CASA/CAJA programs in Alabama. There are approximately 1,055 programs across the country including Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 10 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work about 10-15 hours a month.
How is CASA funded?
At the local level, CASA programs are generally funded through a combination of private and public funds. Many programs are privately funded through service organizations such as the Junior League and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and agencies such as the United Way. The National CASA Association is funded through a combination of private grants, federal funds (U.S. Department of Justice), memberships and contributions.