HOW WE HELP
Court-appointed special advocates work independent of the case workers, lawyers, and foster parents to gather information and make recommendations to the judge. The goal of a CASA volunteer is to present the best interests of the child in court. Our advocates understand that this can only be done by developing a relationship with the child (or sibling group), by visiting them and keeping tabs on their well-being, and by spending time with them. They also do research and conduct interviews, thus gathering information about the case. With their research and their relationships with the child(ren), they are in a unique position to be a voice for the child in court. Sometimes, their recommendations align with the current plan of the case worker; sometimes, they don’t.
Judges take the feedback and recommendations of Court-Appointed Special Advocates seriously. CASA volunteers are a judge’s path to hearing impartial information about the needs of the children, independent of their parents or foster parents. The observations and advice that the CASA brings to court gives the judge a well-rounded understanding of the situation. CASA volunteers can (and often do) make a difference in the outcome of these cases.
Being a Court-Appointed Special Advocate is serious business. When you become a CASA, you become an officer of the court. You also become a mentor and friend of a child who needs one stable, sure presence in their life.
That’s why the process of becoming a CASA is intense. Because of the importance of the work, we screen our applicants carefully. This involves running thorough background checks. Once chosen, there are 30 hours of training involved. You won’t be left wondering what to do once you’re assigned a case. Your training will prepare you for the process – but no training can prepare you for the feeling you get from helping a child at risk.
We ask our citizen advocates to commit to at least one year of service, but many advocates love the work and do it for much longer. Being a Court-Appointed Special Advocate is a perfect way to use your skills and professionalism to give back to your community. When the children of Vermilion County successfully complete school and go on to have healthy, happy adult lives, we all benefit.