Juvenile - Court Appointed Special Advocates Volunteer Program
A Child’s Voice in Court
Q. WHAT IS THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASA) PROGRAM?
In today’s juvenile court system, CASA refers to a court appointed special advocate, a trained community citizen volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. The CASA will be assigned to work with a professional staff member of the court’s juvenile department.
Each year, nearly 300,000 abused, neglected and abandoned children in the United States are thrust into court through no fault of their own. In these cases, many children also become victims of an overburdened court system; a complex legal system of judges, lawyers, social workers, counselors, and court officers, who frequently do not have time to give detailed attention to each child.
CASA was created in 1977 to ensure that the best interests of these children were being heard in court and that they were given the individual attention that they deserve. The Okanogan County CASA Program was founded in 1998, as part of the non-offender services being provided through the Juvenile Department.
After being appointed by the judge, the CASA will be supervised by professional staff Guardian ad Litems from the Juvenile Department. Duties include investigation of the case by reviewing records and interviewing people who may have information about the child: physicians, parents, teachers, relatives, counselors, etc.). Most importantly the CASA will spend time speaking to the child. The CASA will assist in monitoring the court ordered services, reporting to the Guardian ad Litem and making a written report to the Court regarding their observations and recommendations for the best interests of the child. The CASA acts as an advocate for the child involved in the court system.
Q. WHO ARE THE CASA VOLUNTEERS?
CASA volunteers are ordinary people from all walks of life; professionals, non-professionals and retirees, etc., with a wide variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. No special educational or legal background is required. Volunteers are selected on the basis of their objectivity, commitment, confidentiality and competence, as well as a genuine caring and aptitude for working with children.
All volunteers must be able to give 3 to 5 hours per month. Contacts and appointment times are flexible. CASA’s are requested to be present at court hearings for the children for whom they advocate.
Are you a responsible adult? Are you a resident of Okanogan County? Can you relate well to children and families in a stressful situation? Are you able to be open minded and objective? Are you able to maintain confidentiality? Do you care for children in need? Do you have a small amount of time to commit? If your answers are “Yes”, then you may be eligible to become a CASA volunteer.
Q. WHERE ARE THE CASA PROGRAMS LOCATED?
There are over 900 CASA programs in all 50 states, District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and Canada. Over 73,000 men and women are CASA volunteers. CASA volunteers advocate for an estimated 288,000 abused and neglected children annually in court.
For information about National CASA and testimonials from CASA volunteers around the country, click here. For information about Washington State CASA, click here. Your local CASA Program is administered by Okanogan County Juvenile Department Court Services.
Q. HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BECOMING A CASA VOLUNTEER?
You may contact the CASA Program manager at (509) 422-7250. Upon request, more information can be mailed to you, along with an application form. After you decide you are interested in volunteering for the CASA program and you return your completed application, there will be a thorough criminal background and child protective services check, personal references contacted, and an interview scheduled. If you are accepted, it will be conditioned upon the successful completion of the volunteer training program, which will educate you about the court process and the role of a CASA and give you practical experience on a sample case, using a National CASA/Washington State customized curriculum.
Q. HOW DO THE JUDGES VIEW CASA VOLUNTEERS?
Jack Burchard, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge (Retired) "The CASA Program presents a great challenge and opportunity for those who want to make a difference in the lives of our kids."
Dave Edwards, Okanogan County Court Commissioner "I can think of no better way to serve your community than to make a difference in the life of a child."
Chris Culp, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge "CASA Program volunteers play a vital role helping Courts determine how best to meet the needs of children."