How the CASA Program Works
SCAN of Northern Virginia oversees the CASA Program for the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, working closely with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
The Alexandria/Arlington Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program has helped hundreds of children have a voice within the court system. All children have a right to a home with loving people to care for them. But each year in Virginia, over 6,000 children are abused, neglected or abandoned by their families. Many are removed from their homes and placed in foster care or other out-of-home placements. Eventually, they end up in court. Their only “crime” is that they have been victims. This is where CASA comes into the picture.
What does a CASA Volunteer Do?
CASA Volunteers are Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. They are trained community volunteers appointed by judges to speak up for children in the juvenile court system.
What a CASA Volunteer Does:
- CASA Volunteers are provided at least 32 hours of initial training to prepare them to become effective advocates. Trainings include information about what abuse and neglect are, the child welfare system, the juvenile court system, cultural aspects of abuse and neglect, community resources available and much more information pertinent to helping children and their families.
- Once they have completed their training and have accepted the responsibilities of a CASA Volunteer, they are sworn in as official officers of the court, a highly respected honor and privilege.
- Once a volunteer is assigned to a child, his job is to learn as much as he can about that child. He will talk to parents and other family members, teachers or childcare providers, social workers, and others involved in the life of the child.
- Most importantly, the volunteer will talk to the child about what he is going through and about what he wants. He will offer support and guidance and help the child maneuver through this traumatic experience.
- The volunteer will create a report that is shared with the court and includes recommendations about what he thinks is in the best interest of the child.
- The volunteer is provided continuous training and support by the program staff throughout the life of the case.
Who can be a CASA Volunteer?
CASA Volunteers are regular people, many who hold full time jobs, who care about children. They have a variety of professional and educational backgrounds. If you are 21 years of age or older, can talk to people who are going through a difficult time, and have time to commit to helping children and families, then you can be a CASA Volunteer. No special experience is required. Volunteers are selected on the basis of their objectivity, competence and commitment.
What are the Responsibilities of a CASA Volunteer?
CASA Volunteers have the following responsibilities:
- Time. CASA Volunteers commit approximately 10-20 hours per month when they are assigned to a case. CASA Volunteers are asked to commit to at least 1 year but most realize how important it is to stay with a case until there is a resolution.
- Training. CASA Volunteers are required to complete at least 32 hours of pre-service training prior to being sworn in as an official CASA Volunteer. CASA Volunteers are also asked to complete 12 hours of in-service training each year.
Find out more information about the CASA trainings.
What are the Benefits of Being a CASA Volunteer?
CASA Volunteers gain so much from their volunteer experience. Every CASA Volunteer makes some difference in the life of each child they work with.
- Some volunteers enjoy being a part of a solution, rather than just sitting by.
- Many CASA Volunteers enjoy the many learning opportunities offered by CASA trainings and resources available through the program.
- Others like being aware of what is happening to children and families, and knowing what resources are available within the community.
- Some like the prestige and respect that comes along with working with such a notable program and organization.
- Still others enjoy the camaraderie that comes from working with others who are also trying to make a difference for children.
Whatever your reason, being a CASA Volunteer can be the most rewarding experience you’ll ever have.