CASA, a nationally recognized program, provides trained volunteer advocates to become the eyes and ears of the judge and the voice for a child who is currently involved in the court system in Cambria and Somerset counties.
CASA Beginnings (Court Appointed Special Advocate) helps children who have come before the court because of abuse or neglect by recruiting, screening, training and supervising community volunteers.
The statistics are deeply troubling. Each year in Cambria and Somerset Counties, more than 800 children who suffer abuse or neglect find themselves in the court system awaiting their fate.
Will they be allowed to remain with their parents? Will they end up in foster care for a time? Or is it in their best interest to be freed up for adoption?
Whatever the case, the goal is for all these children to live in safe, permanent, nurturing homes.
This program is funded through Cambria and Somerset Counties Children and Youth Services, the National CASA Association, Beginnings’ fundraisers and public donations.
Listen to what our CASAs have to say:
CASA: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen (21 or older) who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in juvenile court. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect.
What is the CASA volunteer’s role?
A CASA volunteer provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the Court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each juvenile dependency case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer offers information to the court to aid in determining if it is in a child’s best interests to return home to his or her parents, to continue in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
What training does a CASA volunteer receive?
CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA program which consists of a total of 30 hours of training.
Volunteer has three roles.
As a child advocate, the CASA volunteer has three main responsibilities
1)to serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background and current facts of each assigned case;
2) to speak for the child in the courtroom, representing the child’s best interests; and
3) to continue to act as an overseer during the life of the case, ensuring that it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion in the child’s best interests.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a caseworker?
Caseworkers generally are employed by the county government. They work on as many as 30 cases at a time and are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each. The CASA worker is a volunteer with more time and a smaller caseload (an average of 1-2 cases at a time). The CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the Court. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child’s case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the Court independent of state agency restrictions.
Do lawyers, judges and social workers support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint volunteers. 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. Dept. of Justice.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time in foster care than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children. When a CASA is involved, chances of further abuse are lessened, future criminal behavior is lessened, and services are better targeted.
How much time does it require?
CASA volunteers usually spend between 10-15 hours a month on their case.
Thinking about becoming a CASA?
National CASA Website: www.casaforchildren.org
Check out our CASA Facebook page!