Volunteer as a CASA
CASA volunteer advocates do not need a degree in social work or the law. Volunteers must only have the heart to care about the well-being of a child and the persistence to do the volunteer job well.
CASA volunteers are committed, caring adults who act as the voice for a foster child until his or her case is closed (average 2 years). Alongside of others in the child’s life, CASA advocates are vital in the four major areas of advocacy—personal, legal, medical, and educational.
How to Become a CASA Volunteer Advocate
As a CASA advocate, you can change a child’s story. Please complete the steps below to apply to become a Macon County CASA Advocate.
When the three steps above are complete, we will contact you to schedule a one hour CASA volunteer interview.
Advocates must be at least 21 years old to apply.
Macon County CASA offers seven training classes per year.
Macon County CASA offers a FREE 30 hour training to prepare all volunteers to perform their role as advocate. You will stand beside abused and neglected children in the juvenile advocacy court system to:
- Watch over and advocate for the best interest of each assigned foster child.
- Make sure each foster child does not get lost in the overburdened legal and social services system.
- Avoid each foster child languishing in inappropriate group or foster homes.
CASA volunteer training includes:
- The juvenile court process
- How to write a court report
- Investigating and interviewing
- Cultural competency
- Dealing with difficult people
Questions? Contact us.
A CASA is an everyday hero—a community volunteer appointed as an officer of the court to advocate for a specific child in the foster or social services system. CASA advocates are appointed by the Juvenile Advocacy Judge to represent the best interest of specific abused or neglected children in court proceedings.
Requirements include being 21 years old, submitting an application, passing a criminal background check, interviewing with CASA staff and going through the Pre-Service Training. Upon successful completion, the Juvenile Advocacy Judge will swear you in as a CASA volunteer and officer of the court. For more information, click here.
A trained CASA advocate spends time with the child and gathers information for the court. He or she recommends to the judge what the child needs to be safe, what is in the child’s best interest for a safe, nurturing and permanent home, and any concerns that might be raised at that time in the case. A CASA volunteer advocates for an appropriate decision that is made in a timely manner.
Volunteer Advocates devote an average of up to 10 hours per month to case activities, including visiting with the child, participating in meetings and court hearings (in person or virtually), communicating with professionals, family members and caregivers, documenting visits and advocacy progress, writing court reports, and communicating regularly with an assigned Advocate Supervisor. Court appearances and some case activities (i.e., making contact with caseworkers, teachers, therapists, etc.) might require availability during regular workweek hours; if volunteer is able to make these particular meetings, he or she will communicate with the Advocate Supervisor for assistance in these areas. Court hearings are scheduled weeks or months in advance, which helps with planning.
Ideally, the CASA advocate remains with the child until his or her case is closed. We ask volunteers to make a minimum two year commitment. One of the primary benefits for a child with a CASA is having a consistent adult presence in the child’s life—sometimes the only consistent, stable adult presence. CASA advocates often become the storyteller of the child’s life in foster care due to the high turnover of others in their lives (i.e., case workers, lawyers, foster parents, etc.).
Generally, CASAs manage only one case at a time. However, a case can involve more than one child (sibling groups) from the same family.
No. CASA volunteer advocates are valuable because they come from all walks of life and can draw on a variety of professional and personal experiences. Most importantly, they are responsible, caring adults with good, common sense and a persistent nature. However, while you may initially have little legal knowledge, you will learn a lot about the legal process and Juvenile Court System through your CASA volunteer training and experience.
When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson—an objective adult to provide independent information about the child’s best interests. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, they also represent other interests. The CASA advocate is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interest of the child. CASA advocates are assigned one case at a time—one CASA advocate per each child (or sibling group) to provide that child with a “voice in court.” Additionally, the CASA advocate develops a relationship with the child built upon trust and consistently. The CASA advocate often becomes the one person in life who the foster child feels he or she can rely upon.
The CASA volunteer advocate role is independent from the social services system and focuses solely on the child. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworkers serve the entire family—parents and child—by providing direct services. DCFS caseworkers are not able to be a wholly independent voice because they are part of an agency that has already taken a position in the case by filing a petition and bringing the matter to court. Conversely, a CASA advocate is an independent voice, advocating on behalf of one particular child. Generally, a social worker is employed by state or local governments and can have dozens of cases at one time, making a comprehensive investigation of each case a challenge. The CASA advocate, however, is assigned specifically to a child or sibling group and can devote more time to his or her assigned case. The CASA advocate does not replace a social worker; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA advocate thoroughly examines a child’s case, investigates various community resources and makes recommendations to the court.
Serving at the request of a judge and providing reports on the best placement for a child, CASA volunteer advocates can spend as much time as is necessary to gather information about the child and the child’s familial system. Paying an attorney to do this job would be cost-prohibitive. A child’s attorney provides legal representation. The CASA advocate and attorney can work as a team to represent the best interest of the child.
We hire staff to manage the program and supervise volunteers. Program costs include salaries, office support, computers and equipment, travel, recruitment and training. CASA staff members recruit, train and supervise volunteers to ensure quality services. All operations and activities are designed to meet National CASA program standards. The CASA staff members are the child welfare experts, so the volunteers can focus on using their experiences in the fields in which they are experts to create productive and meaningful relationships with the child.
Judges know their decisions are only as good as the information they receive. So, yes, they count on the CASA advocate’s independent voice, recognizing that the CASA volunteer advocate has more time to focus on specific cases. A CASA advocate who can tell the court “I was there; this is what I observed,” is invaluable.
Studies have shown CASA volunteer advocates help reduce court costs, stays in foster care and even delinquency rates. A study conducted by the National CASA Association showed that children with a CASA volunteer advocate spent approximately eight fewer months in foster care than children without a CASA (Here in Macon County, IL, CASA ensures that foster children stay in care six fewer months than if they had no CASA advocate.). This not only means that a child finds a permanent and safe home more quickly, but reflects a significant savings to taxpayers. And finally, when CASA closes a child’s case, 98% of the time, that child’s case does not re-open. This is vital to ensure that CASA is not simply closing case to be finished with the case, but rather we are focused on efficiency and overall effectiveness towards the goal of safe and permanent homes.
We thoroughly screen all applicants for the CASA volunteer Advocate position, including
- CANTS (Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System)
- LEADS (Law Enforcement Detailed Summary)
- Fingerprints (submitted to the FBI)
- National Sex Offender Registry
- A valid Driver’s License or government-issued identification
- Verification of social security number
Some local travel may be necessary, as the duties of a CASA include monthly, face-to-face contact with the child wherever he or she resides, plus required court hearings a few times per year. You may also need to travel to gather information from other parties related to the case. Just over 30% of Macon County foster children are placed in homes outside of Macon County. So, we also seek volunteers to travel to neighboring counties two times a month to work a case.
Each CASA is assigned an Advocate Supervisor and has access to FREE continuing education training and materials through the Macon County CASA office and staff. Other activities, such as social get-togethers help connect volunteers with each other to discuss common issues.
CASA advocates are not allowed to take their assigned CASA child(ren) on family outings or invite them to visit their home, as this can often lead to confusion for the child about the relationship. Additionally, in most cases, family members have not gone through CASA training and are not held to the same confidentiality parameters, which would cause a breach of confidentiality.
The young people served by Macon County CASA range in age from infant to age 21.
A CASA will be informed of his or her next court date at the conclusion of the current hearing, usually six months in advance. The CASA office will also remind CASA advocates of their court dates a few weeks prior.
While attendance at court hearings is a strongly suggested duty of a CASA volunteer advocate, we understand that unavoidable work responsibilities may arise that prevent attendance. If you cannot attend, contact your Advocate Supervisor immediately, as he or she may attend in your place.