Frequently Asked Questions
What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained member of the community who is appointed by the Family Court Judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. Potential volunteers must be 21 years or older.
What is the CASA philosophy?
The CASA concept is based on the commitment that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home. The juvenile court judge appoints a volunteer to the child’s case. The volunteer then becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court. Unlike attorneys and social workers, however, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child’s best interests. By handling only one or two cases at a time the CASA volunteer has time to thoroughly explore the history of each assigned case. CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests .
What training does a CASA volunteer receive?
CASA volunteer advocates receive 30 hours of classroom instruction from program staff, and other professionals in our community. After the classroom instruction is complete the volunteer is sworn in by the family court Judge and then concludes the training with a 3-hour courtroom observation that is required before CASA volunteers can take a case. Thereafter, volunteers are required to fulfill 12 hours of in-service training per year .
When are CASA trainings held?
CASA training classes are usually held twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Each required class is 30 hours broken up into smaller sessions over sessions over several weeks. Keep an eye out here!
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, case managers, 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, case manager reports, and other pertinent documents.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social service case worker?
Case workers generally are employed by state governments. They sometimes work on over 20 cases at a time while CASA volunteers are able to provide their full attention to just one family at a time. No state agency could ever afford to provide the kind of one-on-one assistance that CASA makes available to children and families. The CASA volunteer does not replace the case worker; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child's case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the court independent of state agency restrictions.
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom. That is the role an attorney. A CASA volunteer does not represent the child’s wishes in court. Rather, they speak to the best interests of the child.
What are some of the things a CASA might do?
• Locate relatives who may be interested in pursuing custody
• Locate and facilitate camp placements
• Attend Court & CPR hearings
• Assist caseworker with preparation of searches
• Attend Case Planning, ISP, IEP and Annual Review Meetings
• Act as a sounding board for birth and foster parents
• Visit foster homes, birth parents, etc. on a regular basis and share impressions with caseworker
• Support foster parents with information and resources for special needs children
• Pick up reports from schools, therapists, etc. and deliver to the DCPP (formerly DYFS)
• Assist in finding and arranging means of transportation to therapy and visitation ( CASAs cannot provide transportation)
• Make referrals to community resources such as Salvation Army, Jewish Family Services, Big Brother/Sister, etc…
• Assist with obtaining equipment and/or facilities for children’s extracurricular activities.
Is there a "typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. In FY11, there were nearly 2,000 CASA volunteers assigned to cases statewide.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 15 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases may take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteer advocates work anywhere from 4-20 hours per month depending on the complexity of the case to which they are assigned.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
Our CASA program requires a minimum one-year commitment with the ultimate goal of the volunteer continuing until the case is permanently resolved and permanency has been achieved. That is because one of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.
How are CASA programs funded?
CASA programs depend on their communities to support the service. Foundations, corporations, fundraising events, annual giving and grants are just some examples of the ongoing support received by local CASA programs.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time within the foster care system than those who do not have a CASA volunteer. Judges have also observed that children assigned to a CASA volunteer also have better chances of finding permanent homes than children not assigned to a CASA volunteer.
How many CASA programs are there in the State of NJ?
There are 14 CASA programs serving each of the NJ court vicinages.
Are there any other agencies or groups that provide the same service?
No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests.
How can I find a CASA program in my community?
CASA of Middlesex County’s phone number and address are listed on the home page. If you are not from the state of New Jersey, CASA programs are known by a variety of names. National CASA can be contacted for help in finding a local program at visit www.casaforchildren.org.
How do I get more information about becoming a CASA volunteer?
CASA of Middlesex County would love to meet you and tell you more about the program. Visit us at 77 Church Street in downtown New Brunswick or
Does CASA of Middlesex County utilize social media?
CASA of Middlesex County has both a Facebook and a Twitter page!
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