Clark County CASA Program
The Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program is based on the belief that every child has a right to a safe, permanent, loving home. In our county, the CASA Program is administered by YWCA Clark County. The CASA volunteer is committed to providing factual information about the situation of children who are involved in the Dependency Court system because they are victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. CASA volunteers are appointed by the court to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or stay in inappropriate group or foster homes. The information and recommendations the CASA volunteer provide to the court assists the court in making crucial decisions about the child’s future. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
As a CASA, you will pursue an independent investigation of the child’s situation, report your findings and recommendations to the court, monitor the progress of the case, encourage positive communication among all involved parties, and advocate for the best interest of the child. You’ll learn how to interview the child, family members, service providers and other professionals to make sure all the facts are uncovered. You’ll learn about courtroom procedures—what the court expects from you, how to clearly and effectively give testimony in court, and how to write reports to the court.
As long as the child is involved in Dependency system, you’ll be asked to monitor the entire process so that the child’s best interests are served and to act as an independent voice to tell the court what you think should be done to ensure a safe home for the child. Once that case is over, your involvement in that child’s life will also end. Being a CASA volunteer can be challenging: sometimes you will feel angry, sad, or frustrated at what you see. But when you help one child who has been assaulted or neglected, and when you make a difference in one child’s life, then you will know for certain that it is all worth it—for the child, and for you.
When you become a CASA volunteer you are asked to make a minimum one-year commitment to the program. The average case lasts two years, and volunteers are encouraged to stay with the program until their assigned case is resolved. This assures that each child has a CASA volunteer who is consistently present with them throughout their time in the system. Volunteers dedicate approximately ten to twelve hours per month to advocate for abused or neglected children. Our program provides 30+ hours of training to prepare you for the CASA role. After swearing in as a CASA volunteer, you become the voice for a child in the court system and in the community.
CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years of age and may not have any active involvement with Child Protective Services. Volunteers participate in a mutual screening process that includes a written application, interview, references, and criminal history checks. Although no prior experience is necessary, in order to be successful as a CASA you must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing; interact respectfully with people from various cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds; gather and record factual information accurately; maintain objectivity; adhere to confidentiality guidelines and follow established program procedures; and remain actively involved in your assigned case until is has been closed.
the CASA role has four components:
As a CASA, you will conduct an independent investigation on behalf of the child you represent. This investigation will include interviews with the child, family members, foster parents, medical professionals, mental health providers, neighbors, school officials, and law enforcement personnel. You will identify whether or not a child has Native American heritage and help find relatives for possible support or placement of the child. CASA volunteers are required to visit with the child at least once every 30 days and to periodically observe visits with the family and siblings. If appropriate, you will interview the parents and conduct a site visit of the parent’s home.
You help to facilitate a collaborative relationship between all parties involved in the case, including the child, parents, foster parents, social worker, and judge. By using a child-centered, family-focused approach to working with all parties, you can help effectively resolve complex issues. The CASA may recommend services or bring concerns about the child’s health, education, or mental health to the Court and the appropriate service providers. The CASA updates the court on changes in the child’s situation, family members, and needs.
You advocate for the child throughout the complicated judicial process. Children are often unable to articulate their hopes and fears, and they may not know that their interests can prevail over the requests of adults who have abused or neglected them. The CASA is the spokesperson who ensures that the child’s needs are heard, and that the best interests of the child are presented to the court and other agencies involved in the child’s life. As a CASA, you present information to the court through a written report and oral testimony at each hearing.
You visit the child a minimum of once a month to ensure that the child’s essential needs are being met. CASA volunteers confirm that court-ordered services are provided to the family and determine if the court’s orders are being carried out. The CASA also interviews service providers and others about the parents’ progress and then reports their findings back to the Court. The CASA continues involvement with the child in order to secure a safe, permanent home for the child as quickly as possible.
benefits of becoming a CASA
To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the CASA Program contact Nichole Peppers at 360-906-9112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.