FAQ

WHAT DOES "CASA" STAND FOR?

CASA is an acronym for “Court Appointed Special Advocates” for children.

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WHO CAN SIGN UP TO BE A CASA?

Requirements include:

Being at least 21 years old

Willingness to complete necessary background checks, provide references, and participate in an interview

Willingness to complete our 30-hour CASA Volunteer Training Class (3 or 4 of these take place throughout the year, to best meet the needs of attendees)

Willingness to complete 10-hours of observation in Hardin County Family Court

Being available for court appearances, for which there will be advance notice

Willingness to commit to the CASA program and your CASA child for at least two years

We encourage people from all cultures, professions, ethnicities, and educational backgrounds to apply. Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system, and the special needs of abused and neglected children.

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WHAT DOES A CASA VOLUNTEER DO?

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in Family Court and other areas of the child’s life including school, therapy, and the Child Welfare System. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:

Gather information: Review documents and records; meet the children on a regular basis; speak with family members and professionals in their lives.

Document findings: Provide written reports and recommendations at Family Court hearings.

Appear in court: Advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.

Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.

"Be the glue": Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the child's life. As one volunteer said: Be the glue that connects the pieces in our complicated Child Welfare System.

Recommend services: Ensure that the child and his/her family are receiving appropriate services, and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child's health, education, mental health, etc., to the appropriate professional’s attention.

Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.

Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and/or family members which may affect the child’s welfare, recovery, or stability. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the Court knows about any changes in the child's situation.

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TO WHICH CASES ARE CASA VOLUNTEERS APPOINTED?

CASA volunteers are appointed to any case on any Dependency, Neglect, or Abuse (DNA) case in which the Family Court Judge feels (s)he needs an extra set of eyes and ears.

Due to the high demand for CASA volunteers, and the limited number of CASAs currently available, the judges usually appoint CASA to the worst cases of abuse and neglect.

At the end of CASA Training Class, trainees complete a form detailing the types of cases on which they will consider working, including case circumstances and number of children.

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WHAT DOES TRAINING ENTAIL?

There is a 40-hour total pre-service training requirement. You receive all necessary instruction in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system, and the special needs of abused and neglected children.

The 30-hour Training Class is based on the National CASA Association’s ten-chapter curriculum. The chapter titles are:

Chapter 1: CASA Volunteer Role

Chapter 2: Law, Courts

Chapter 3: Cultural Competence

Chapter 4: Families, Part I

Chapter 5: Families, Part II

Chapter 6: Child Development

Chapter 7: Communication

Chapter 8: Gathering Information

Chapter 9: Reporting and Monitoring

Chapter 10: Training Wrap-Up

Each chapter is facilitated by a professional in the subject area being covered.

Classes are informal and relaxed with an emphasis on open communication and engaging discussion.

Following completion of the Training Class, potential volunteers complete 10-hours of Family Court observation before being assigned to a case. There is also an annual 12-hour in-service training requirement. CASA and our community partners offer many options for meeting this requirement.

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AM I ON MY OWN AFTER I COMPLETE MY TRAINING AND COURTROOM OBSERVATION?

No. You are supported in every step of your experience as a CASA volunteer.

Our staff is available 24/7 to answer questions, assist CASA volunteers in writing court reports, act as sounding boards, provide advice, attend home visits or other meetings with CASA volunteers as needed, and act as liaison between CASA volunteers and other organizations when necessary.

You also have ongoing in-service training opportunities beyond the 40-hours of initial instruction.

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AM I OBLIGATED TO TAKE A CASE AFTER I COMPLETE TRAINING?

No. Our hope is that you will be ready to put your new knowledge and skills to use after you complete training.

However, if you feel you are not yet ready to take a case after the Training Class ends, you are under absolutely no obligation or pressure to do so.

We want our CASA volunteers to be comfortable and confident in their decision before they commit to a child’s case.

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HOW OFTEN WILL I SEE THE CHILD TO WHOSE CASE I AM ASSIGNED?

CASA policy requires volunteers to see the child in person at least once every other week, and make phone contact on the weeks when you do not see them in person.

Many CASA volunteers choose to see “their” children more often, based on the circumstances of their individual cases or the relationships they develop with the children.

It is important to remember that your personal knowledge of the child and the child’s needs is essential to advocating for your CASA child’s best interest.

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WHO ELSE WILL I BE PERMITTED/EXPECTED TO SPEAK WITH IN THE CHILD’S LIFE?

As a child’s CASA you will receive appointment orders from the Court that allow you to access any and all people of relevance to the child’s case.

The CASA volunteer’s role is to connect the child with targeted services that best meet his or her individual needs. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a CASA might speak with natural parents, Cabinet for Health and Family Services workers, neighbors, foster parents, relatives, teachers, and therapists.

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WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF AN ASSIGNMENT? HOW LONG OF A COMMITMENT WILL I BE MAKING?

CASA children frequently change foster homes, schools, therapists, Cabinet workers, and other service providers. The CASA volunteer is the one stable adult presence in these children’s lives.

CASA asks that a volunteer commit to remain with a child until his or her case is closed.

The average CASA case lasts about 18 months, though the length of time varies based on each child’s unique circumstances.

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WHAT ROLE DO SUPPORT STAFF MEMBERS PLAY?

Our Support Staff members act as “Advocate Coordinators.” They are available 24/7 to answer questions, assist CASA volunteers in writing court reports, act as sounding boards, provide advice, attend home visits or other meetings with CASA volunteers as needed, and act as liaisons between CASA volunteers and other organizations when necessary.

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HOW DO I KEEP FROM GETTING TOO EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED?

It’s natural that you will become emotionally involved to some degree.

Part of your Advocate Coordinator’s role involves helping you maintain perspective. CASA training, plus the organization’s policies and procedures also assist volunteers in setting emotional and professional boundaries. For instance, CASA volunteers do not transport or supervise children, and gift-giving is limited to small items.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT OUR STAFF ANYTIME AT:

270-982-2272

dsmith@casaheartland.org

P.O. Box 6065; Elizabethtown, KY 42702