PROVIDING A VOICE FOR CHILDREN IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer who works with abused and neglected children in the court system. When children are removed from their home due to abuse or neglect, the judge will appoint one of our volunteers, CASAs, to be that child’s advocate and help determine what is in the best interest of the child. As an objective party, the CASA functions as the child’s voice as they go through the court system.
CASA volunteers get to know the child and offer a consistent, stable presence in the child’s life during a difficult time. They speak to everyone involved in the child’s life, including their families, teachers, attorneys, social workers, therapist, psychiatrists and others. Among other things, CASA volunteers research the case, create a plan for advocacy and make recommendations to the court. All of this information helps the court make informed decisions as to what is in the best interest of the child.
Being a CASA volunteer does not require any special education or background. It requires participation in our training program and the desire to help abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes.
After completing a 30-hour training class provided by CASA of El Paso and being assigned to a case, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) begin visiting the child regularly. Volunteer Advocates work closely with, but independent of, Child Protective Services (CPS) and attorneys.
The role of the volunteer Advocate includes
1. Being a fact-finder for the judge
The volunteer Advocate talks with the child, parents, family members, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The volunteer Advocate then provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future.
2. Speaking for the child in court
The volunteer Advocate makes a recommendation to the court for permanent placement, stating whether it is in the best interest of the child to live with the parent(s), live with relatives, remain in foster care, or be available for permanent adoption.
3. Being a “watchdog” for the child
During the life of the case, the volunteer Advocate ensures the child’s needs are met and the case is resolved swiftly and appropriately. The CASA must visit the child(ren) regularly, as outlined in their volunteer duties.