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CASA 101: A list of frequently asked questions 

What is CASA?

CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates. In some programs, the volunteer advocates assume the role of a lay GAL (guardian ad litem). The first CASA program was created in 1977 by Seattle judge, David Soukup. 

What is the National CASA Association?

Founded in 1982, the National CASA Association is a membership organization with over 1000 CASA/GAL state and local program offices serving 77,012 volunteers advocating for 234,238 children. The home office of National CASA is located in Seattle, WA, with additional staff working from remote offices in several states. Read more about the association in our annual report.

Are there standards that govern CASA programs?

Yes! National CASA implemented the Standards for Local CASA/GAL Programs in 1998. In 2002, a quality assurance self-assessment process was established to monitor each program's compliance with those standards. Member CASA/GAL programs are required to review compliance every four years. Read more about the local program standards.

Who are CASA volunteers? 

CASA/GAL volunteers are trained advocates assigned to report to the court on behalf of a child who has been a victim of abuse or neglect. Volunteers come from all walks of life, all ages and diversities, with close to half working at full time jobs. Every CASA volunteer receives training and support from local program staff, who have professional backgrounds in the legal and child welfare fields. Read more about what it means to be a CASA volunteer.

How are volunteers screened?

Pursuant to National CASA Local Program Standards, all staff and volunteers are required to pass an application and screening process that includes a check of national and state criminal records, state child protective services and sex offender registries. A personal interview and reference check is also required. Board members are required to pass the same background checks as a CASA volunteer.

How are they trained?

National CASA Local Program Standards require all member programs to provide a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training for new volunteers. These trainings often utilize the National CASA Volunteer Training Curriculum, a thorough collection of information vital to working within the juvenile court system and understanding the complexities of the social service system as well as the dynamics of child abuse and neglect. 

In 2012 National CASA introduced a flex-training program option that local programs can offer. Participants in the flex-learning training complete part of the pre-service training online and part of the training in person. Volunteers are also required to complete at least 12 hours of ongoing training per year to stay current on information vital to their roles. See a list of training resources provided to member programs.

What is the role of a CASA volunteer?

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:

  • Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
  • 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 is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.
  • "Be the glue": Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children's lives. As one volunteer said: Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.
  • Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child's health, education, mental health, etc. 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 appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child's situation.

For more information on programs in the network, see our Annual Program Surveys. For information on program development, see Guide to New Program Development and Achieving Our Mission.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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