WHAT IS CASA?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and is a non-profit organization that trains and supervises community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
WHAT DOES A CASA DO?
A CASA volunteer is a trained community member who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a child or family of children in the court system. They get to know the child while also gathering information from the child's family, teachers, caregivers and anyone else involved in the child's life. CASA advocates make informed recommendations based on their independent investigation as to the child’s best interest. The advocate is charged with identifying the child’s needs and strengths and ensuring services, family visits and other court orders are completed. Advocates act as a communications link in the maze of the child welfare system, ensuring the child’s voice is heard.
DOES AN ADVOCATE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
A child who has a CASA volunteer by their side receives more services, moves through the system more quickly and has a better chance of a successful outcome, than a child without a CASA. Most importantly, a child with a CASA is significantly less likely to reenter the foster care system, meaning a Court Appointed Special Advocate is helping stop the cycle of abuse.
DO YOU NEED VOLUNTEERS?
YES! Kay County ranked #10 in Oklahoma in 2014 for the number of cases investigated for child abuse and/or neglect by DHS Child Welfare Services. There were 1,529 children in Kay and Noble Counties combined. Our goal is to ensure a CASA will be available to represent 100% of the abused and neglected children in our community. You can advocate for these children! Becoming a CASA will help meet an overwhelming need.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?
In addition to 30 hours of pre-service training, an advocate applicant must be at least 21 years of age, be able to pass a background check, willing to commit to the CASA program for at least 1 year and able to objectively collect information from a variety of sources. After being sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, they must complete 12 hours of in-service (continued education) training each calendar year.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM TRAINING?
Training topics include CASA roles and responsibilities, bonding and attachment, child abuse and neglect, cultural issues, domestic violence, communicating with children, poverty, conflict resolution and more that are vital to prepare a CASA for their role. For example, CASA volunteers go through poverty training so that when they are working with families and children who are in the child welfare system primarily for reasons related to poverty, they can actively work to identify and support family strengths. The goal is to then help the family access the resources they need to become better providers for their children. The training shapes the way you think about poverty and helps breaks down stereotypes.
HOW MUCH TIME IS REQUIRED?
More time is spent on a case when it is first assigned, as this is the more intensive fact-finding stage. As the case moves toward resolution, cases require less time. On average, an advocate donates around 10 hours per month including their monthly contacts with the child, parents, foster parents, DHS, family members, etc and their monthly report. Each case is different, of course, but most cases require going to court 3 or 4 times during a one-year period to present a report with recommendations to the judge.
CAN I WORK FULL-TIME AND BE A CASA?
You might be surprised at just how flexible this volunteer opportunity is! For your required monthly face-to-face visit with the child, that can be done at your convenience. Whether that's on a Saturday afternoon at the park or a Tuesday evening in the child's home. As for court dates, those average 3-4 times per year. Court is held on Thursday mornings until early afternoon at the latest. If your schedule conflicts and you aren't able to make court, that's okay! A representative from CASA will be there and can speak on your behalf if needed. Either way, we work together to put a court report together that is based on your observations, concerns and recommendations and it is submitted to the court a week before the scheduled court date. They have your report with concerns and recommendations - even if you aren't able to physically be there!
HOW ARE ADVOCATES SUPPORTED?
In addition to the in-depth 30-hour pre-service advocacy training, each advocate has a supervising Advocate Coordinator who provides guidance and moral support continuously throughout the case. Advocates also receive 12 hours of in-service (continued education) training each year. Many in-service training opportunities are offered throughout the year to provide further development of advocacy skills and additional expertise in areas of specialized need such as educational advocacy, working with older youth, etc. Advocates can choose from a range of options to satisfy the 12 hours of continuing education required, including workshops, community presentations, documentaries, books, etc.
WHICH CHILDREN ARE APPOINTED A CASA?
The children served by CASA are victims of abuse or neglect that have been removed from their homes and placed into foster care by the state’s child welfare services.
WHERE DO YOU RECEIVE YOUR FUNDING?
CASA of Kay & Noble Counties is funded by the National CASA Association, Oklahoma CASA Association, and a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. Additionally, we raise funds with our annual Playhouse Fundraiser. Finally, CASA receives support from a number of generous individuals and civic organizations.
HOW DID CASA BEGIN?
In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. From that first program has grown a network of nearly 1,000 CASA programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia. CASA of Kay and Noble Counties was founded in September of 1997 shortly after the since retired District Court Judge D.W. Boyd was appointed to the bench and learned of the benefits of having Court Appointed Special Advocates involved in the juvenile court process. CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice. CASA is described as “the eyes and ears of the court,” and frequently acts as “the arm and legs” of an overworked child protective system.