I was sworn in yesterday to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children. It was a 30 hr class and now I'm sworn in before the Judge in Adams County. There were 19 of us in the class, and we're all starting to get our court cases this week.
The volunteers get to know the children and their circumstances, show them that someone cares, advocate for their best interests (including making recommendations to the Court), encourage them to grow to their fullest potential, and become involved in key issues in their life, especially permanent placement, and school, health, and mental health issues.
A CASA volunteer is often the sole consistent adult anchor for foster children. Children frequently remark how important it is to them that these tireless advocates are the only people in “the system” who are not paid to assist them. CASA volunteers give a voice to a child who cannot speak up for herself or himself and are frequently viewed as mentors or guides.
Judges typically assign CASA volunteers their most difficult and complex cases: children with prior maltreatment or contact with child welfare, cases of extreme abuse or neglect, or those where there is a great level of risk of further abuse and neglect. Many children assigned to CASA have learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and significant emotional and mental health problems.