Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become an Advocate?
You can begin with a phone call to our office, or an email to our Volunteer Coordinator. Our staff will prepare you for this unique position and help you to decide whether you are well-suited for such an important role. After an application, a 40-hour training course, and a comprehensive background check and assessment, the judge will swear you in as an officer of the court. The juvenile court, the children, and the community highly value CASA volunteers.
How long is my commitment?
CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties requires an 18-month minimum commitment from all advocates.
How do you screen prospective volunteers?
Each CASA volunteer participates in a comprehensive background check process including fingerprinting and submitting at least three reference letters. Since Advocates work on behalf of abused and neglected children, the law requires that all advocates receive proper training, thorough screening and assessment.
How much time will I be expected to contribute each month?
Every child and every case is different. The amount of time required will vary, depending on the case and the child’s age and needs. Volunteers devote, on average, ten to twelve hours per month.
How many children does a CASA work with at one time?
CASA offers a powerful intervention because of our commitment to one child per CASA volunteer. Under some circumstances, however, a CASA may work with a sibling group, or take on another case at the recommendation of their supervisor.
How old are the children involved?
The judge may assign a CASA to any child, youth, or young adult involved with the juvenile court. Your assigned child’s age can range from a newborn to age 20.
What types of cases are assigned to CASA?
Judges assign our advocates to children who are the most at risk, having experienced abuse or neglect and needing the Court’s protection. Some children live at home with their parents, but the majority live out of home in foster care, in group homes, or with relatives.
What educational or work experience do I need to become a CASA volunteer?
You must care about children and their welfare – that’s all you need to be a CASA. Your life experience, common sense, and the drive to help will provide you with all the background you need to begin. In fact, it’s what makes you the most valuable. CASAs are everyday people, just like you, who bring a fresh set of eyes to the case. You will receive training and supervision to ensure that you understand your role.
What are a CASA volunteer’s responsibilities?
A CASA volunteer serves not only as a mentor, but also as a strong advocate and officer of the court. You will build a stable relationship with a young person, get to know their unique history, and interview the important people in that child’s life. You will also help them plan and develop age appropriate goals and access needed medical, education, career, and housing services. When the case goes to court (usually every six months), you will make informed recommendations to the judge about what is best for the child – and make a life-changing difference.
How does a CASA volunteer’s role differ from a social services caseworker’s?
A CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker or social worker on the case, but serves as an independent, sworn officer of the court, appointed to investigate the child’s circumstances and help define the child’s best interests. Our advocates work with social workers to ensure that the judge has the best information, and that the child receives all of the services and supports he or she needs.
How does a CASA volunteer’s role differ from an attorney’s?
Both CASAs and attorneys have a duty to investigate firsthand the child’s circumstances and make best interests recommendations to the court, but there are significant differences. CASA volunteers are legally prohibited from giving children legal advice – even if they are attorneys. Unlike attorneys, CASAs submit written reports to the court, can give testimony, and work at the discretion of the judge. An attorney will have many clients – often 100, 200, 300, or more. Because of their one-on-one relationships, CASAs have more time to devote to their children, getting to know them and their circumstances.
How is a CASA relieved from their assigned case?
A CASA volunteer may resign or be removed from an individual case at any time by order of the court. CASA Program Directors also have the discretion to terminate a CASA volunteer from the program.