How did CASA begin?
In the 1960s Judges realized that they were making far-reaching decisions about the lives of children without hearing the unique perspective of the child. The first Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program began in 1977 in Seattle, Washington by King County Judge David Soukup.
As word of the program’s success spread, similar programs began all over the United States. Because some states require GALs to be attorneys, the term Court Appointed Special Advocate – CASA – was coined to describe volunteers from local communities trained to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court proceedings. In 1982 the National CASA Association was established to assist the growing number of programs in the country.
CASA of the Eastern Sierra was established in 2012 as the first CASA program in the Eastern Sierra. It operates under the umbrella of Wild Iris Women’s Services of Bishop, Inc., a not-for-profit organization serving Inyo and Mono counties. Please visit the website for CASA of the Eastern Sierra at www.casaeasternsierra.org
Who are CASA volunteers?
A CASA is a trained volunteer child advocate appointed by a Judge or Referee of the Juvenile Dependency Court to represent the best interest of children who are defined by the California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300.
During the time the child remains in the Juvenile Court System, the CASA investigates the child’s circumstances, provides fact-based information, and makes recommendations to the Court while becoming a friend and a support system to the child. The information and recommendations the CASA volunteer provides to the Court assists the Court in making crucial decisions about a child’s future.
CASA of the Eastern Sierra volunteers represent the diverse communities found within Inyo and Mono counties. CASA volunteers come from all professions, races, ethnicities, social and economic backgrounds. CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years old.
What do CASA volunteers commit to do?
- Complete an extensive, independent review of each case.
- Meet face-to-face with child at least once a week.
- Speak with the child and relevant adults (parents, family members, school officials, doctors and others involved in the child’s life that might have facts about the case).
- Review appropriate records and reports.
- Observe the child and significant others.
- Report findings to the court by submitting formal reports to the Judge at every scheduled hearing/review.
- Provide a written report containing factual information to the CASA office 10 business days prior to every hearing.
- Attend court hearings concerning the child.
- Ensure representation of the child’s best interest.
- Attend all court hearings to see that all relevant facts are presented.
- Attend appropriate interagency meetings regarding the child.
- Participate in case conferences concerning the child.
- Monitor the case following a court hearing or decision as designated by the court.
- Ensure that the judicial and child welfare systems are moving ahead to secure a safe, permanent home for the child.
- Ensure that court-ordered services are provided to the child and family.
- Consult regularly with the Program Manager concerning assigned case.
- Develop a CASA case plan.
- Review progress and reports.
- Maintain record of specific statistics on a monthly basis and report this information back to the Program Manager. These figures are needed by the program for grant reports and evaluation purposes.
What are the benefits of being a CASA?
Although we cannot provide monetary rewards, there are many benefits to volunteering as a CASA. These include the opportunity to:
- Make a difference in the life and future of a child who has been a victim of abuse and/or neglect.
- Help a child/children find permanency in a safe, loving home.
- Assist judges in obtaining a clear picture of a child’s life and needs.
- Gain an understanding of the courts, legal proceedings, and social services agencies.
- Develop/utilize communication skills.
- Develop/utilize assertiveness.
- Utilize pertinent past experience/skills.
- Form friendships with like-minded people in your community.
- Have access to training statewide.