CASA is a program of volunteers who are appointed by the Juvenile Court Judge to act as a Guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children who proceed through the court system. It is CASA's mandate to get to know the children, gather all pertinent information, and then make recommendations to the Judge about what is in the best interests of the children. CASA's ultimate goal is to find a safe, permanent home for every child that CASA represents.
Winnebago County CASA FAQ
Q: How long is training and what does it include?
A: Training is approximately 35 hours and includes classes which occur 2--3 days/week, with each session lasting 3 hours. The training includes an Orientation, 10 classes, and a minimum of 2 hours of court observation. Volunteers are taught about: the court process; the Department of Children and Family Services and other social service providers; topics including the family dynamics of physical and sexual abuse and domestic violence; cultural awareness, child development; and report writing and effective advocacy techniques. Training is held twice per year, in the spring and fall.
Q: What,generally will I be doing?
A: A trained CASA volunteer gathers information for the court. He or she then recommends to the judge what the child needs to be safe and what is in the child's best interests. The judge reads the CASA reports as well as the agency(ies) report(s), taking all reports into consideration, and then makes a decision concerning the child. A CASA's goal is to find a safe, permanent home for every child represented.
Q: What generally will I be doing?
A: A CASA is able to talk to the children and anyone involved in the children's lives such as parents, foster parents, teachers, school counselors, agency caseworkers, medical providers, and therapists. A CASA will not be able to discuss the case with those not directly involved because of the requirement in the Juvenile Court Act of Confidentiality.
Q: How often do I have to come to Court?
A: Court dates are usually set every 6 months during the permanency review stage, but can occur more often depending on the circumstances of the case at a given time. The next court date is usually set while the CASA is in court or at a hearing. Therefore the CASA will know months, or at least weeks, in advance of the next court date. The only exception is when an emergency hearing is scheduled.
Q: Does the Court listen to what a CASA has to say?
A: Judges know their decisions are only as good as the information they receive. They listen to CASA and count on CASA volunteers to be an independent voice; they also know that CASA volunteers have more time to focus on specific cases. A CASA who can tell the court, "I was there -- this is what I observed" can be invaluable.