Why Volunteer with CASA?
All children deserve shelter and love. Yet, each year in Williamson County, nearly 1,000 children are abused, neglected or abandoned by their own families. Removed from their homes and placed in foster care or institutions, they eventually end up in court where a judge decides their fate. Should they remain in foster care? Be reunited with parents? Or adopted? In these cases, many children also become victims a second time - lost in an overburdened child welfare system that cannot pay close attention to each child whose life is in its hands.
That's where CASA comes in. CASA volunteers are Court Appointed Special Advocates for children; they are trained community volunteers appointed by a judge to speak for abused and neglected children in court. They are unpaid volunteers whose goal is to expedite the process through which the abused and neglected children in Williamson County can find safe and permanent homes.
All children have a right to a home with loving people to care for them. Our local CASA program provides ongoing training and support for every volunteer. Each volunteer is assigned a case supervisor or Volunteer Coordinator who is a resource for the volunteer every step of the way.
What is the Role of a CASA Child Advocate?
CASA volunteers are ordinary people - except when they're viewed through the eyes of a child in a courtroom. Then they seem like the most special people in the world!
Varied in educational backgrounds and career paths, volunteers need the following qualifications:
- interest in children, their rights and special needs
- interpersonal skills
- communication skills- oral and written
- minimum age requirement is 21
- no criminal history
- organizational skills
All volunteers are screened carefully. Objectivity, competence and commitment are vital to being a successful volunteer. Those who complete the screening process undergo in-depth training, which is conducted by our local CASA program.
Volunteers receive a thorough working knowledge of the court system and the people involved, including the roles of judges, lawyers, and social workers.
CASA volunteers are also taught effective advocacy techniques, and learn about a variety of relevant topics, from adolescent behavior to signs of sexual abuse.
The CASA volunteer functions in many roles including those of:
- Investigators: through independent investigation on behalf of the child they represent, including interviews with medical professionals, mental health staff, neighbors, family, school officials, law enforcement personnel and the child;
- Monitor: through through ensuring that court-ordered services are provided to the child and family and that the case progresses;
- Spokesperson: through assuring that the child understands that their own options or interests may prevail over the adults who have abused or neglected them, that the child's wishes are heard and that the best interest of the child is presented to the court and agencies dealing with the child; and
- Reporter: through the presentation of information to the court in written form and oral testimony at each hearing in the proceedings to assist the court in determining what is in the child's best interest.
Because volunteers are highly trained and knowledgeable, judges rely on their recommendations in determining what’s best for an abused child. By standing up for abused children, volunteers not only change the life of one child, but also the lives of their children and their children’s children.
It is the volunteer's duty to focus exclusively on the child's best interests and express the child's needs and point of view. The advocate's in-depth knowledge of the case provides the judge with the information necessary to make tough decisions.
Why Volunteer to be a CASA Child Advocate?
Because CASA volunteers are central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for a child’s right to be safe, treated with dignity, and learn and grow in the security of a loving family. Abused children need volunteers who can apply their professional and life skills to stand up for their safety and well-being. A volunteer who stands up for an abused child will make a real difference in their own life as well as the life of the child. Abused children need an army of compassionate adults who fight for their safety and well-being. The lives of foster children are hanging in the balance, they need your help and they need it now. By standing up for abused children, a volunteer can help prevent a child from languishing for years in foster care.
Thank you for your interest in becoming a CASA/Guardian ad Litem Volunteer. Please click on the link below to download the application to become a CASA volunteer.