- Local CASA History
- Fact Sheet
- Volunteer Job Description
- How to Become a Volunteer
- Hear from local CASAS and Foster Youth
History of the Local Program:
A dedicated group of people realized that a child who has been abused or neglected, or requires special treatment that can not or will not be provided without court intervention, needs someone to advocate for their rights and look out for their best interest. From this realization, the group worked with Judge Margaret Hand for over a year to lay plans for a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) project that would serve Tippecanoe County.
In 1985, there were 8 wardship cases in Tippecanoe County in which an attorney Guardian Ad Litem was appointed. A grant from the Gannett Foundation in September of 1986 and the work of a volunteer coordinator produced five volunteers who were trained in Indianapolis to work with attorneys. County funding began in January 1987; that provided for a part-time coordinator. The following volunteer training resulted 20 volunteers being sworn in on July 22, 1987. By August of 1990, the program had a new name, Tippecanoe CASA, and had 61 cases assigned to a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate.
The CASA program has continued to grow over the years. In 2013, Tippecanoe County CASA represented 340 children with a staff of 8 people and 117 volunteers.
It shouldn't hurt to be a child, yet each year in Tippecanoe County, over 500 abused and neglected children are thrust into the juvenile court system. The court must decide the fate of these children. The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained citizen appointed by a judge, who can help assure that placement and services are truly in the best interest of the child.
What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of an abused or neglected child victim in court. CASA volunteers are able to focus on the child and their needs while they are in the system. (I.C. 31-34-10-3)
What is the CASA volunteer’s role?
A CASA volunteer provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine what is in a child’s best interest. The CASA volunteer makes recommendations regarding necessary services and placement options to the judge and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the Department of Child Services case manager, the child, parents, family members, case managers, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical, case manager reports, and other pertinent documents.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a Department of Child Services Family Case Manager (DCS FCM)?
Case managers are employed by the state government. They sometimes work on a large number of cases at a time and are sometimes unable to conduct a comprehensive ongoing investigation of each case. The CASA volunteer has a smaller caseload (an average of 1-2 cases at a time). The CASA volunteer does not replace the Department of Child Services Case Manager. The CASA is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer works with the DCS FCM to insure that the case moves forward in a timely manner. The CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child’s case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make a recommendation to the court independent of state agency restrictions may be prevail. (i.e. policy, budget, 2/6/2013etc)
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation; that is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists the attorney in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they tell the court what the child’s wishes are, and then they exercise their own independent judgement to determine whether those wishes are actually in the best interest of the child. A CASA Volunteer represents the best interest for children, which is not always the same as what the child wants.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. There are more than 70,000 CASA volunteers nationally.
Do lawyers and judges support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint volunteers. The American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Judges and Delinquency Prevention have endorsed CASA.
Does the federal government support CASA?
CASA is a priority project of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The office encourages the establishment of new CASA programs, assists established CASA programs, and provides partial funding for the National CASA Association.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Research suggests that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have also observed that children assigned to a CASA also have better chances of finding permanent homes than children not assigned to a CASA.
How much time does it require?
The initial training is a comprehensive series that takes 36 hours to complete, prior to becoming a CASA volunteer. Upon the completion of the training and being sworn in as an officer of the court, then the CASA is appointed to a case.
Although each case is different, a CASA volunteer usually spends about 10 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work on their cases about 10-15 hours per month. Some cases because of the complexity may require more time.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.
Are there other agencies or groups that provide the same service?
There are other pro bono child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only national program using carefully screened and trained community volunteers who are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
What children are assigned CASA volunteers?
Children who are victims of abuse and neglect who have become wards of the court are assigned CASA volunteers. The Juvenile court may also choose to appoint a CASA to an Informal Adjustment, Juvenile Delinquency case or a Collaborative Care case.
What is the role of the National CASA Association?
The National CASA Association is a non-profit organization that provides training, technical assistance, research, media and public awareness services to members. National CASA works with state and local CASA and Guardian Ad Litem programs to promote and support quality volunteer advocacy to help assure each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.
How is CASA funded?
The local program is funded through county funds, state funds, private funds, and grants. The National CASA Association is funded through a combination of private grants, federal funds (US Justice Department), memberships and private contributions.
Does National CASA have a web site?
How do I contact the local CASA office?
Tippecanoe County CASA
County Courthouse, 301 Main Street
Lafayette, IN 47901 Phone: 765/423-9109 FAX: 765/423-9710
Program # 10173
Tippecanoe County CASA Program
CASA Volunteer Job Description
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a concerned, trained volunteer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of an abused or neglected child. The CASA is responsible to investigate the facts of the case, recommend a course of action, and monitor progress toward established goals while the case is under jurisdiction of the court.
1. 21 years of age or older.
2. Have a concern and interest in children, their rights and special needs.
3. Have time to devote to training sessions, investigation and follow up of assigned cases.
4. Have the ability to work with children, adults, and professionals using tact, concern, and basic human relation skills.
5. Have the ability to maintain confidentiality, remain objective, be responsible and honor commitments.
6. Have the ability to communicate verbally and in writing.
1. Complete a written application and participate in personal interviews with the CASA program staff.
2. Complete 100% of basic training sessions.
3. Commit to a minimum of 15 months of service as a CASA volunteer in Tippecanoe County.
4. Sign a pledge of confidentiality and commitment.
5. Give consent for and pass a criminal record check, Child Protective Service check and Bureau of Motor Vehicles record check.
6. Attend in-service education, totaling at least 12 hours per year, commencing within 6 months of start of volunteer duties.
7. Have transportation and provide proof of valid Indiana driver’s license and car insurance which includes liability coverage.
8. Maintain a complete up to date file on each case, including appointments, interviews and info gathered about the child and the child’s circumstances.
9. Meet all deadlines for reports and maintain regular contact with supervisory staff, meeting with as necessary and/or requested.
10. Sign CASA Volunteer Insurance Disclaimer.
11. Return all case file information to the program once a case has been dismissed.
1. When appointed to a case, interview the child, family members, foster family, teachers, social workers, and other interested parties to determine the facts. ¬ Record all findings as the case progresses and confer with the Program Director/Supervisor on a regular basis.
2. Investigate alternatives available to the child and prepare a written report stating findings and recommendations for specific services for the child and family as disposition of the case to the court. Monitor services and court orders assuring that they are rendered in a timely manner, seeking to make sure that a permanent plan has been created for the child.
3. Seek cooperative solutions by acting as a facilitator among parties as needed, interfacing with mental health, educational, and other community systems to assure that the child’s needs in these areas are met.
4. Appear at all hearings to monitor proceedings and testify when necessary.
5. Have regular and sufficient contact with the child to ensure in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact-based, specific recommendations to the court.
6. Continue follow up on the case until a final disposition is made.
7. At all times advocate for the child’s best interests.
Upon receipt, a staff member will call to set up a screening interview.
Accepted applicants will go through a training course to learn about the court and child welfare systems. Training averages about 35 hours, plus an opportunity for court observation time.