This can vary on a case by case basis. We usually tell volunteers to expect an average of 15 hours per month. However, there may be more hours than that needed in the beginning of a case, and much less towards the end of a case. Also, all CASA volunteers are expected to meet with their child at least once per month.
A CASA volunteer knows the child’s preference for placement, treatment, and permanency. The CASA should build rapport with the child and be a consistent person throughout the duration of the child’s dependency and neglect case. CASAs are a voice for the child and ensure that the child’s preferences are heard. A successful CASA case is one that no longer needs their CASA volunteer. CASAs help the child identify trustworthy adults and can recommend services that provide mentors or positive adult role models. CASA volunteers learn more about their role in a child’s life during their 30 hour pre-service training classes.
Although CASA programs and Child Advocacy Centers both investigate cases and advocate for abused and neglected children, the organizations differ greatly in their mission. CASA’s goal is to advocate for the best interest of the child and for a safe and permanent home as quickly as possible. Child Advocacy Centers work with the Department of Children’s Services and the District Attorney to prosecute alleged offenders.
Guardians Ad Litem are the legal representation for a child throughout juvenile court proceedings. GALs also advocate for the child’s best interest and often collaborate with CASA volunteers. GAL’s are appointed to multiple cases and children, but a CASA volunteer serves one case at a time.
First, the court system appreciates our input. In 2013, 98% of CASA recommendations were accepted by the juvenile court judges in Anderson, Scott, and Blount counties. And at CASA of the TN Heartland, 92% of our children remained safe 6 months after case closure- compared to the national average of 70%. National CASA research indicates that a child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to be adopted, half as likely to re-enter foster care, and spend less time in foster care. See this link for more information.
Typically, the CASA volunteer submits a written report to the court. We ask that volunteers be present whenever the child they are advocating for has a court hearing. Staff is always present to support our volunteers in court. During hearings, judges will often ask for CASA’s opinion. This usually means the volunteer will stand up and offer his/her observations and recommendations. However, from time to time, a volunteer is required to take the stand and formally testify. When this happens CASA staff is always there to help prepare the volunteer for this experience and to support him/her through the hearing.
Yes. In determining placement, or where a child should live, a CASA goes to the foster or placement home to see the child and interview the caregivers. We also go to the parent’s home to see where the child would live, should the child be reunited with family. CASA makes recommendations to the court based on these home visits and what is in the best interest of the child.
Yes. If there is any reason to believe that a home is dangerous, or that there is criminal activity taking place, we do not require volunteers to visit alone. Some interviews can take place at neutral sites, such as a coffeeshop. To be able to make recommendations based on a questionable home, volunteers can arrange to see the home with a mentor, staff member, GAL, or DCS case worker. If there is enough concern to make even that impossible, then the CASA report would indicate that it was unsafe to visit the home.
We hope volunteers will stay until the child is in a safe and permanent home. However, we understand that sometimes this is not feasible. We ask volunteers to commit to be involved in a case for at least one year.
No, as CASA volunteers, we do not provide direct services. Instead, a CASA volunteer must remain objective as we investigate and research the child’s case. Being an advocate is a very important gift to the child, and it comes with the responsibility of good judgement and a clear understanding of your role as an advocate. CASA volunteers should also not give significant gifts to the child(ren) and should always seek the advice of their advocate coordinator when facing an ethical dilemma.
No special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Our requirements include:
Be 21 years old
Completion of the volunteer application including references and background check
Participation in an interview
Completion of 30 hour pre-service training
Available for court appearances, with advance notice
Commitment to the CASA program for at least 1 year
Thank you for your interest in CASA of the TN Heartland! If you are interested in volunteering please begin our application process by filling out our application here. Once you have submitted your application, a staff member will be in touch with you. Our application process includes: completion of our volunteer application, submission of three references, background check, and an in-person interview.
Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of abused and neglected children. Our 30 hour pre-service training is held 6 times a year and in-service training for current volunteers is held quarterly. Click here to see our agency calendar.