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  • What is a CASA volunteer?
    A court appointed special advocate (CASA) is a community volunteer trained and supervised by professional program staff to speak up for abused and neglected children in child welfare court cases.
  • Who can be a CASA volunteer?
    No special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Once accepted into the program, volunteers receive training in courtroom procedures, child protective services, child welfare law, and the special needs of abused and neglected children. Requirements include: At least 21 years old Willing to complete necessary background checks, provide references and participate in a personal interview Complete 30 hours of pre-service training Available for court appearances, with advance notice Willing to commit to the CASA program until the child’s case is closed
  • What exactly does a CASA volunteer do?
    The CASA volunteer role complements but does not duplicate the duties of other responsible persons involved in abuse or neglect cases, such as case workers and attorneys. With support and guidance provided by staff, the CASA volunteer gathers and assesses information and develops recommendations, which are considered by the court to aid in its decisions about the best course of action for the child. CASA volunteers have the time and commitment to thoroughly get to know the facts of the case, establish a relationship with the child, and follow through on the monitoring process until the child is reunified with the caregiver or placed in another safe home and legal permanency is achieved. A CASA volunteer's duties include: Investigate: CASA volunteers thoroughly research the background of the case by reading all relevant records and talking to everyone involved, such as teachers and service providers. The CASA volunteer especially gets to know the child to determine the child’s unique needs. Facilitate: CASA volunteers work with the other parties involved to ensure that the child’s case is progressing through the system, and recommendations and court orders are being followed. Advocate: CASA volunteers make reports to the court and recommend what they believe is best for the child, providing the judge with information that will help the court make an informed decision about the child's future. CASA volunteers can be instrumental in assuring that a child or family receives needed services that the court has ordered. Monitor: During the life of a case, a CASA volunteer monitors the child's situation to make sure the child's needs are being addressed and that a permanent plan is developed and implemented. A CASA volunteer may be the only consistent adult the child knows as the case moves through the labyrinth of the child welfare system.
  • What does it take to be a CASA volunteer?
    Commitment: When you take on a case, you take on a child's future. We ask that you stay with the case until it is resolved. This often takes a year or longer. The amount of time you give to a case will vary depending on the stage of the proceedings and the complexity of the case. CASA volunteers spend an average of 10-12 hours per month on casework. Objectivity: The CASA volunteer must remain objective and base recommendations on the information that has been gathered, while always representing the best interests of the child. Volunteers must be willing to talk to everyone involved in a case to get a clear picture of the child’s life. They must put aside their own subjective values, and be willing to advocate for something that the child may not want. While CASA volunteers do establish a relationship with the child, the CASA volunteer's role is not to become a "big brother/sister” to the child. Perseverance: CASA volunteers often run into frustrations or roadblocks in dealing with the child welfare system. Maintaining your focus on the child(ren) being advocated for is essential to getting through more difficult times. Program staff and fellow CASA volunteers can help you make it through the rough spots. Good Communication Skills: CASA volunteers must be able to talk to a wide variety of people, from healthcare professionals to school officials to an angry parent. CASA volunteers should also be able to speak in the courtroom on behalf of the child's best interests.
  • How long has CASA been around?
    The first CASA program began in Seattle, Washington in 1976, when Judge David W. Soukup, then the Presiding Judge of King County Superior Court in Seattle, began using trained community volunteers to make sure abused and neglected children had an informed advocate in court. The Alaska CASA program began in 1987, under the auspices of the state Office of Public Advocacy (OPA). Currently, Alaska CASA operates local programs in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and the Mat-Su Valley. Visit our History page for more information.
  • Who are the children being represented?
    The children and youth served by CASA volunteers range from birth through 21 years of age and come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
  • How does a CASA volunteer get involved in a case?
    Someone concerned about the welfare of a child calls the Office of Children’s Services (OCS). OCS workers investigate the report and make a decision about the safety of the child. If OCS determines that a child is at risk of harm, then the state may ask the court for temporary custody that includes the authority to place a child in a foster home. When a child is taken into state custody Alaska law requires that the child is assigned a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) provided by OPA. GALs are paid professional child advocates. If available, a CASA volunteer is also assigned to the case as soon as possible, and the CASA volunteer's unique skills and background are considered when assigning a case. The CASA volunteer teams up with the assigned GAL to provide the best possible advocacy for the child.
  • How does someone become a CASA volunteer?
    CASA volunteers complete over 30 hours of classroom training (with additional time required for homework) and at least one court observation prior to being sworn-in and assigned to a case. All CASA volunteer applicants complete a screening process which includes an information meeting, written application, personal interview, criminal and child protection checks, Social Security number verification, and personal reference checks. In addition to the initial training, CASA volunteers are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education a year. The Alaska CASA program provides all required training free of charge to the volunteer. Visit our Become a Volunteer page for more information.
  • What is the need for CASA volunteers in Alaska?
    Unfortunately, Alaska has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the country. Professionals in the child welfare system often have very high caseloads. CASA volunteers are assigned just one or two cases so they can give the cases the sustained and personal attention needed. National studies have shown that when a CASA volunteer is assigned to a case, it is resolved in a shorter period of time and that volunteers perform as well as trained attorneys. A 2008 study that surveyed judges, lawyers, child welfare workers, and family members found that all four groups rated CASA volunteers highly on a variety of indicators of effectiveness and satisfaction, with judges and lawyers being the most satisfied (Litzelfelner, 2008). In addition, foster youth and their families often respond very positively to CASA volunteers because they are not being paid. Our highly trained and deeply committed volunteers can truly make a lasting and positive impact in a child’s life.
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