When You Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, You Can Change the Life of an Abused or Neglected Child
Imagine that you’re five years old and someone comes to your home and takes you away from everything you’ve ever known – your brothers and sisters, your pets, your room. They put you in an unfamiliar place with people you’ve never met before. Dozens of strangers begin to come in and out of your life. The police, foster parents, social workers, judges and lawyers.
Everyone says they have your best interests in mind, but you don’t understand what that means. It often seems as if no one can take the time to listen. You’re scared and you feel like there isn’t anyone who really cares. You may even think that it’s somehow your fault.
The truth is, none of this happened because of anything you did – the people responsible for you weren’t able to care for you properly and keep you safe. But there IS hope for you.
That’s where a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA volunteer) comes in.
CASA Volunteers Listen First – Then They Act
Court Appointed Special Advocates take the time to get to know a child by listening to him or her and talking with important figures in that child’s life. Parents, relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys and social workers. Then they use the information they gather to make informed recommendations regarding what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for him or her.
By serving as a CASA volunteer, you can make sure that a child doesn’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service systems or languish in an inappropriate foster or group home. You’ll continue to advocate for the child until the case is closed and the child is permanently placed with a caring family.
For the child, your advocacy can make a difference between homelessness and finding a loving family to raise them. The difference between dropping out and completing school, unemployment and being self-sufficient, and for some children – the difference between jail and life as a productive member of our community.
Your Life as a CASA Volunteer
The CASA of Maricopa County program, in conjunction with Voices for CASA Children, offers a volunteer opportunity like no other. Together, we promote and support quality volunteer advocates like you to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the dependency court system. Furthermore, our pre-service training program will give you all the tools you need to effectively represent your child in the courtroom.
At the moment, CASA of Maricopa County is serving 5% of the 12,000 children currently in the Arizona Department of Child Safety’s care due to life-threatening abuse, domestic violence or neglect. Our goal is to provide one Court Appointed Special Advocate for every child and you can help to make it happen.
With a commitment of just ten hours a month, you can do something extraordinary – redeem a child’s future. Find out more about the CASA program and how you can make a difference today. Begin the online application here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Much Time Does it Take to Be an Advocate?
On average, you can expect to spend 10 hours a month on a case. On top of that, all CASA volunteers must complete a 30 hour pre-service training. Advocates sometimes say that there is a greater amount of work in the beginning of the case, when they are conducting their initial research. While 10 hours a month is the average, the time commitment to a case varies depending upon the unique circumstances of the child and even the stage of the case (such as waiting for adoption to be final).
Continuity and trust are very important for these children, so we ask that you dedicate yourself to the case until it’s closed. That means about a year and a half on average.
Do I Need to Have Any Special Skills or Meet Any Requirements?
No special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. We encourage people from all professions, cultures and ethnic and educational backgrounds to apply. Once you’ve been accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of neglected children.
You must be:
- At least 21 years old
- Able to speak, read and write English
- Willing to complete necessary background checks, take a polygraph test, provide references and participate in a one-on-one interview
- Able to complete a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training
- Available for court appearances, with advance notice
- Willing to commit to the CASA program until your first case is closed
What Exactly Does a CASA Volunteer Do?
As an advocate, you will have several responsibilities. You’ll need to:
- Gather Information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
- Participate in Document Findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
- Appear in Court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain What’s Going On: Help the child understand the court proceedings or other activities happening in their lives.
- “Be the Glue”: Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the child’s life. As one volunteer said: “Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.”
- Recommend Services: Ensure that the child and his or her family are receiving appropriate services. Advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education and mental health to the appropriate professionals.
- Monitor Case Plans and Court Orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
- Keep the Court Informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that those responsible file appropriate motions on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child’s situation.
What Sort of Support Will I Receive?
You can rest easy knowing that you will be supported every step of the way. As a CASA volunteer, you will have opportunities for continuing education and have access to online resources provided by the National CASA Association and CASA of Arizona. These include a resource library, a national Facebook community and a national conference.
We want you to feel comfortable in the courtroom and with your child. CASA of Maricopa County’s experienced staff, pre-service training program and continued support system are in place to ensure you always have an answer to your question and know the best way to handle every situation.
Who Can Be a Volunteer?
You don’t have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be a volunteer. We welcome everyone who is committed to advocacy for children to apply. At CASA of Maricopa County, we’re looking for people who care about children.
Are You Ready to Become an Advocate?
Take a final moment to imagine what it’s like being bounced around the court system. When you wake up in an unfamiliar home or institution and you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours. Everyone keeps telling you that you’ll be placed with a loving family soon, but that day seems like it will never come.
There are 12,000 children in Maricopa County alone in a situation like this – and you can give back to your community by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate. You’ll receive support at every stage of the process and enough training to ensure you know your way around the courtroom. Regardless of your culture, age, education or profession, if you want to save a child, you are well-suited to becoming a CASA volunteer!
Strengthen Your Community – Become the “Glue” in a Child’s Life
We’re excited to help you take the first step towards becoming a CASA volunteer, and we’re here to help along the way. With questions, please email us at:
Call us at:
Or stop by our conveniently-located office headquarters at:
4300 N. Miller Rd., Suite 116
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251