Frequently Asked Questions

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court.  Children represented by CASA Advocates are victims of abuse and/or neglect and come before the court to have a judge make decisions about their custody and placement.  The CASA Program recruits, screens, trains, supervises, and supports CASA Advocates.

The first CASA Program was begun in 1977 by a judge in Seattle.  There are now more than 900 CASA Programs nationwide providing services to approximately 280,000 children through the dedicated work of more than 70,000 Advocates.  In Massachusetts, there are 5 independently operated CASA Programs with offices in Boston, Lawrence, Northampton, Springfield and Worcester.

As adults come and go in these children’s lives, they need one adult to stay for the length of the cases, someone who develops a knowledge of this particular child’s needs. With this individualized advocacy, we may prevent a child from falling through the cracks of the system.

The system is overloaded now. Every child has only one childhood and we can not waste this precious time.

Fact finder: A CASA Advocate provides the judge with carefully researched, unbiased information on an abused or neglected child to help the court make sound decisions about the child’s future custody and placement.

Through the information gathered, the CASA Advocate identifies and addresses any unmet needs of the child, including educational, physical, emotional, and social needs.

 The CASA Advocate monitors compliance with the court’s orders and reports findings to the judge.

Facilitator: Helps connect the family with appropriate resources and connect team members.

Social workers provide case management and services to families, often serving over twenty cases at a time.  A CASA’s role is to advocate for a child’s best interests and help to ensure that the child is placed in a permanent home as quickly as possible.

Normally, a CASA carries only one case at a time. A case may involve more than one child since a case refers to a family.  On occasion, if the CASA demonstrates that he/she can carry two cases while maintaining quality advocacy services, a double caseload is permitted.

CASA Advocates visit the children in their placement and offer children trust and advocacy during the complex court proceedings.  When age appropriate, they explain the events that are happening in court and the different roles of the judge, lawyers and social workers.  CASAs also encourage children to share their feelings and needs so they can better advocate on their behalf.

CASA Advocates are ordinary people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.  No special academic or legal background is required. However, CASA Advocates must be willing to make a commitment to the program to complete their case and to participate in 30 hours of training. The CASA program seeks individuals who are objective, trustworthy, responsible and open to the ideas and cultures of others. All applications for advocate service are carefully considered.

CASA trainees receive a thorough, standardized, 30-hour pre-service training program, adapted from the National CASA Association Comprehensive Training for the CASA/GAL. Topics covered include: the juvenile court process, effective advocacy techniques for children, child development, family dynamics, communication, information gathering, report writing, child abuse and neglect, permanency planning, cultural awareness, confidentiality, and record keeping.  CASA trainees also observe in court and undergo a comprehensive personal interview and background check.  After becoming an advocate, CASA volunteers are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education and are also provided with ongoing supervision and support.

To prepare his or her recommendations to the court, the CASA advocate interviews the child, parents, caretakers, social workers, school officials, health providers, therapists and anyone else who is knowledgeable about the child. The CASA also reviews all written records concerning the child.

A CASA staff member is always available to answer the questions of Advocates and to provide guidance, supervision, direction and support.  The CASA advocate supervisor assists advocates in formulating recommendations for the court, edits reports for content and format, and produces and distributes the final report.

Each case is different. An average case requires eight hours of a CASA’s time per month, but that varies from month to month, depending on whether a court report is due. Many CASA advocates have full-time jobs, and work on their CASA cases in the evenings or on weekends.  Some flexibility during daytime hours is essential for contacts with service providers and court appearances.

A CASA remains involved with a case until it is closed by the court. This ensures continuity for a child who may already have difficulty trusting people and building relationships. Because individuals, including parents, caretakers, social workers and other service providers frequently come and go, a CASA advocate commits to supporting the child for the duration of the case.

Findings show that children who have been assigned CASA advocates tend to spend less time in the foster care system 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. CASA volunteers help children receive needed services that an overburdened social service system sometimes fails to provide.

Yes.  Juvenile judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint the advocates.  The American Bar Association and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators have endorsed CASA.

As adults come and go in these children’s lives, they need an adult to stay for the length of the case, someone who develops a knowledge of the particular child’s needs. With this individualized advocacy, we may prevent a child from falling through the cracks of the system.

The system is overloaded now. Every child has only one childhood and we can not waste this precious time.

These professionals many times have too many cases, which makes it physically impossible to be all the places you should be to check on these children. With another source of information, the saying “two heads are better than one!” applies here. Judges rule on the information they receive.

The FCRB is a panel of individuals who review reports organized by a FCRB Review Specialist. They seldom see the child in person. They listen to those participants who agree to attend the review hearings or submit verbal or written updates.

This is the only volunteer organization that is directly connected to the court and appointed by a Judge. Judges request that a CASA be assigned to a case.

CASA volunteers are individuals from the community who are trained to advocate for abused and neglected children. They are required to commit to one year with a child, but seldom leave a case until it has been terminated.

CASA volunteers submit an application with references, complete an oral interview with the program director or supervisors, and attend training. A complete criminal history and child abuse registry check are done on each application. Upon completion of their training, they attend a swearing-in ceremony with the juvenile court judge and promise to maintain strict confidentiality and professionalism throughout their appointment.

Each CASA volunteer receives a minimum of 30 hours of in-class training, which includes information on the court process, interviewing, abuse issues, report writing, and more. Professionals who are involved with the local court and child protective services are part of the training. In addition, volunteers must complete 12 hours of in-service training yearly which is offered by the local and state CASA programs.

CASAs visit the child monthly, and communicate with all of the professionals, family members, foster parents, and anyone else involved with the case. They monitor the case plan, help the plan stay on track, and submit a written report to the court.