Frequently Asked Questions

What function do CASA volunteers serve? CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused and neglected children in foster care, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.

As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:

Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of the assigned case
Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, representing his/her best interests
Act as a “watchdog” for the child for the duration of the case, ensuring it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion

How are CASA volunteers assigned to cases? Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases involving physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Several other factors are also considered in making this decision:

The instability of the child’s current placement
The presence of conflicting case information
Concerns about the implementation of special services, such as medical care, counseling and education assistance

What are the qualifications to become a CASA volunteer?

Commitment: The vase majority of cases last one to two years, and the amount of time spent on a case per month typically range between 10-20 hours. Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide a quality advocacy.

Objectivity: Volunteers research case records and speak to everyone involved in a child’s life, including their family members, teacher, doctor, lawyer, social worker and others. Their third-party evaluations are based on facts, evidence and testimonies.

Communication skills: Once a volunteer has fully evaluated a case, they prepare a written report outlining their recommendation for the child’s placement. They must be able to speak with authority as they present their rationale to the judge in court.

What is the process to become a CASA volunteer?

CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training and development program that consists of at least 40 hours of pre-service training, followed by 12 hours of yearly in-service training. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system: judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. CASA volunteers also learn effective advocacy techniques for children, and are educated about specific topics ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior.

After completion of the initial training, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court. This gives them the legal authority to conduct research on the child’s situation and submit reports to the court.

What does it mean to be a certified CASA program?

The 1,000 plus local and state member CASA program offices adhere to formal standards set by National CASA and are required to pass a quality assurance review, which is administered every four years. This self-assessment is a course of action taken by local programs in order to evaluate and improve their operations.

Staff teams work together to answer 446 questions and gather 58 supporting documents for submission to National CASA. Professionals outside the CASA network determine overall compliance by conducting an independent review of the standards self-assessment instrument and supporting documentation. Programs must address any compliance concerns within six months in order to maintain CASA membership.

What makes CASA different from other organizations?

The CASA 15th Judicial Circuit Organization is the only program that advocates for children through the court system. The CASA program trains and case manages volunteers to provide advocacy in the courts for the best interests of abused and neglected children.

Why is the work of CASA 15th Judicial Circuit program needed in Lee, Carroll, and Ogle Counties?

Every day four children in the U.S. die from child abuse and neglect.k DCFS receives hundreds of hotline calls each year alone in Lee, Carroll and Ogle Counties. Caseworkers, treatment providers, foster placements, and attorneys change frequently during the course of a case. The CASA volunteer is the one consistent person advocating for the minor(s) throughout the life of the case.

What is a CASA volunteer?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained volunteer who is appointed by the judge as Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children. A CASA volunteer is appointed to one case at a time, and remains on the case until it is closed. Cases last an average of two years. By being independent investigators and advocates, our volunteers can make all the difference in these children’s lives. Research shows that children with a CASA volunteer are much less likely to languish in long-term foster care.

What is the CASA volunteer’s role?

A CASA volunteer provides consistency to the child and ensures that their special needs and best interests are adequately represented in court. The CASA program makes certain that the best interests of abused and neglected children are the primary focus of every decision made the the Juvenile Court Judge. This is accomplished by meeting monthly with the children on their case, interviewing anyone who has relevant information to the case, researching records (medical, school, DCFS), monitoring the family’s compliance with court orders (to receive counseling services, participate in anger management classes, etc.), attending school meetings and DCFS staffings, preparing reports for the judge prior to all court hearings, and participating in court hearings.

How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social service caseworker?

Social Service Caseworkers generally are employed by state governments or other contracted agencies. They work on multiple cases at a time and are responsible for arranging or making referrals for services for parents and children. The CASA volunteer is assigned to only one case at a time, and therefore, is able to invest in the case with the children’s best interests being the sole focus. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social service caseworker on the case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA has knowledge of community resources and can make independent recommendations to the court, while the social service caseworker is often restricted by agency or state budgets, policies and procedures.

Why does CASA 15th Judicial Circuit need money if the program consists of unpaid volunteers?

It is necessary to maintain an experienced professional staff to recruit, train and case manage volunteers. There are also administrative, fundraising, and operating expenses involved in running an extensive nonprofit organization that must maintain transparency and compliance.

Since CASA is a national organization, does my money stay local?

Absolutely it does – 100% stays local as each CASA program runs independently. Illinois CASA and the National CASA Association are supportive of local programs and provide valuable information regarding marketing and grant opportunities. We pay a minimum annual membership fee.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”