Questions

CASA of SLO County FAQ

The heart of CASA is its dedicated volunteers who lovingly support abused and neglected children through weekly meetings with them, advocating for them in court, and ensuring their best interests are met.

What is the CASA organization?

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, a national nonprofit program that recruits, trains, supervises, and supports community volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in the child welfare system.

What is a CASA volunteer?

CASA Volunteers are people like you–caring adults in the community who receive training to represent the best interest of a child. The judge appoints a child to each Volunteer, who then gets to know the child and become a constant in that child’s life during the tumultuous months following identification of abuse and/or neglect.

What Does a CASA Volunteer do?

A CASA Volunteer spends time with their assigned child on a weekly basis, getting to know the child while also gathering information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, caregivers and others involved in the child’s life. On occasion, you prepare a report for the judge (with help from your assigned Supervisor) sharing your recommendations for the child’s care.

How do I become a CASA Volunteer?

Of course, it starts with an application. This is followed by an interview, background screening, and then 36 hours of training (on-line and in-seat). Lastly, the judge swears you in as an officer of the court. A good place to start is by attending one of our brief, information session.

What time commitment is required?

Upon receiving “your child”, you will generally meet with him or her for about an hour a week, to do something fun like play in a park or visit the library. You will also need to meet the primary people involved in the child’s life, such as social workers, teachers, and therapists. Ultimately, you’ll create a short court report every six months (and we’ll help). The typical CASA spends about 12- 15 hours a month bonding and advocating. You’re asked to stay with a case until it closes, typically about a year. You may well be the only consistent adult in the child’s life, providing vital stability and continuity.

Who are the children CASA serves?

In 2018, the courts identified approximately 500 children in our county as abused or neglected. These children have typically been removed from everything familiar – home, family, friends and school – and placed into a strange world: foster families, social workers, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are made on their behalf. We serve children from birth to 21.

How many children does CASA serve?

Last year, dedicated volunteers advocated for 196 children, approximately 40% of the total number of children in the care of San Luis Obispo County courts. Securing the volunteers and funding to serve all of these children is our goal.

Why do children need CASA volunteers?

When a child has been abused or neglected by their primary caregiver (typically the parent), it leaves the child with no single adult dedicated to ensuring their medical, educational, developmental and personal needs are met. There is no one to assure follow through and to make sure that the particular needs of this particular child are identified. This is why a child receives a CASA Volunteer. It gives them one person, assigned to them for the duration of their case, to follow them through changing foster placements, schools, social workers and whatever else the new life throws at them. The judge relies on the CASA for a personal, well-researched recommendation on the child’s needs. The child relies on the CASA to be a consistent adult they can count on during such a difficult time.

Are CASA Volunteers important to the court?

Very! Judges depend on CASA Volunteers for the most personalized information about each child. They want CASA Volunteers for every case in the court, but currently, SLO CASA can only serve about forty percent of the children who need a volunteer. There is a child waiting for your help.

What difference does CASA make for children?

Children with a CASA volunteer are more likely to find a safe, permanent, nurturing home. When a CASA has been assigned, a child is far less likely to re-enter the foster care system after successful reunification with their parent. Children who receive advocacy while in the system are twice as likely to graduate from high school. National CASA reports that children with a CASA volunteer are more likely to receive needed therapy, health care and education, more likely to do better in school, less likely to be bounced from one place to another, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system. Most importantly, children themselves report that they know and can rely on their CASA volunteer.

How are CASA Volunteers different from social service caseworkers?

Social workers, employed by government agencies, attend to as many as 30 cases at a time, involving the whole family and additional siblings. The CASA volunteer focuses on an individual child. CASA Volunteers do not replace a social worker; they are an independent appointee of the court. The CASA Volunteer thoroughly examines the child’s life, identifies resources that are needed, and makes recommendations to the court.

Does a CASA Volunteer need certain qualifications?

Yes–you must like children! Also, you need to be open to working with people whose values, backgrounds, and beliefs may vary from yours. People of all ages, all cultures, and all backgrounds make great CASAs.