What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained community member who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. These children are temporarily in the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department as foster children.
What is the CASA volunteer’s role?
A CASA volunteer provides the presiding judge in that case with carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child’s best interest to return to his or her parents or guardians, remain in foster care, be placed with relatives, or be freed for permanent adoption.
What are the requirements for becoming a CASA volunteer?
Prospective volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, and must undergo thorough national-level, state-level and local criminal background checks and civil checks related to working with children. Applicants are required to complete a volunteer application, attend a pre-training interview, and participate in thirty (30) hours of CASA volunteer Training before working with any children through the CASA Program. Volunteers should have effective written and oral communication skills in English, since English is the language in which New Mexico’s Courts operate.
When is training held?
If you live outside New Mexico, find your local CASA program through the National CASA Association.
How does a CASA volunteer research a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, case workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical and caseworker reports, and other documents pertinent to the case.
How is the role of a CASA volunteer different from an attorney?
Children in foster care in New Mexico have one of two kinds of attorneys. Children under the age of fourteen (14) have a guardian ad litem (GAL) who is charged with representing their client’s legal interests and their best interest; children who are fourteen (14) or older have a youth attorney (YA) who is charged with representing their client’s legal interests and following the wishes of their client. GALs and YAs focus primarily on the outcomes of the court process for these children.
CASA volunteers are charged with looking at all aspects of the case, from the child’s needs and wishes, to the obstacles and challenges, to the legal requirements and more. CASA volunteers are responsible to find out everything they can about the child, about what should be happening in a case, and about what is happening in a case and to bring that information back to all those involved in making decisions for that child – particularly to the judge. CASA volunteers submit written and verbal recommendations to the court that assist the judge in making the best possible decisions about that child’s situation.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds and a variety of careers and skill-sets. Last year there were more than 70,900 CASA volunteers nationally and more than 850 CASA volunteers across New Mexico actively working to stand up for the best interest of children in foster care.
How many cases, on average, does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?
Typically a CASA carries one (1) case at a time, allowing them to focus on the particular needs of one child or sibling group. National CASA Standard require that a CASA volunteer be limited to no more than two (2) cases at a time and be limited to advocating for no more than six (6) children at a time. One of the things that makes CASA volunteers advocacy so effective is that each CASA volunteer is able to focus on the needs of only one or two sibling groups at a time. In an overloaded, under-funded child welfare system, this individualized attention is extremely valuable.
How does CASA make a difference?
According to the National CASA Association abused and neglected children are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and prison as adults. However, children with CASA volunteers are more likely to receive therapy, health care and education. They tend to have fewer foster care placements or changes. Judges have observed that CASA children have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children. National research has shown that CASA volunteers help children reach a safe, permanent home faster than children that do not have a CASA volunteer.
How much time does it require?
The scheduling of most volunteer activities is flexible. While each case is different, a CASA volunteer usually spends 10-15 hours each month doing research and spending time with children on his or her case.
I would love to share my talents with CASA, however I do not have time to devote my time as a CASA advocate. What other volunteer opportunities are available?
Being a CASA volunteer is a unique and often challenging volunteer job. It is not a good fit for everyone – not even everyone who values the futures of our children in foster care! There are plenty of volunteer opportunities to lend your talents to CASA if advocating in a child’s case is not a good fit for you.
CASA programs across New Mexico need:
- Volunteer Board Members
- Corporate Partners
- Event Volunteers
- Community Support for Advocacy for Children in Foster Care
For additional information about CASA in your area: