CASA staff members train volunteer advocates to work on behalf of vulnerable children in the court system. Advocates are then appointed by judges to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates. These advocates speak out for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes.
CASAs interview parents, teachers, foster families, counselors, and the child.With this information, they submit reports to the court. Judges are then able to make more informed decisions about what is in the best interests of the child.
A CASA's goals are to ensure each child has a safe and permanent home, give them a voice, and advocate for their safety and needs.
Children with CASA advocates are likely to spend less time in foster care, are less likely to be bounced from home to home, and do better in school. They are half as likely to re-enter foster care.
No special background or education is required to become a CASA Advocate. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
Your goal as a CASA/GAL advocate is to remain empathetic to the family while remembering that the child is your focus. It is important to be objective; to remain detached enough to see clearly the child's and family's situation and needs. To be successful as a CASA/GAL advocate you must care about the families of the children, but you cannot live their lives for them.
The most difficult boundaries to set and maintain are those between the CASA advocate and the child or children in the case. It is natural to care about a child who has been hurt and who relies on you to keep his/her best interest at the forefront – if you didn't care, you wouldn't work so hard to ensure his/her needs are met. However, if you get too personally involved, it is hard to maintain the objective perspective that is required for advocacy work. Our goal is to be part of a temporary intervention in a child’s life - to assist in a time of need and then to leave and let the child continue along his/her way. When the child is in a safe, permanent home, your work as a CASA/GAL advocate is done. It is time to move forward and help another child.
CASA advocates are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA advocate are to:
Parents typically decide what is best for their children and then provide it for them the best that they can. They are their children's best advocates. The court intervenes in families' lives when parents cannot or will not protect, promote, and provide for their children's basic needs. A CASA/GAL advocate becomes the advocate when the parents cannot – or will not – fulfill this role.
Juvenile court judges use the "best interest of the child" standard when making decisions in child abuse and neglect cases. Child welfare and juvenile court practitioners and scholars have debated the meaning of "best interest of the child" for years. Although books have been written on the subject, there is still no concise legal definition for this standard.
In cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies, the law presumes that it is always in the best interest of an Indian child to have his/her own people determine what is best for his/her future.
All advocates must complete a 30 hour pre-service training. The time commitment to a case varies depending upon the stage of the case. Advocates sometimes say that there is a greater amount of work in the beginning of the case, when they are conducting their initial research. On average, you can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a month on a case.
You are asked to dedicate yourself to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half.
You will be supported every step of the way. You will be assigned a peer coordinator or mentor who will be there to assist you and provide you with opportunities for continuing education and learning. This individual will be a resource throughout your time with CASA as an advocate. You may also contact the Advocate Coordinator or Executive Director for additional assistance or help related to your case. There are also monthly case review meetings that provide advocates the opportunity to meet as a group and discuss their cases and get feedback, ideas and help as may be needed.
To report a possible case of child abuse or neglect, call the 24-hour, toll-free Montana Child Abuse Hotline: 1-866-820-5437