A brand new CASA program in San Joaquin County (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is about to begin service. Organizers were recently granted $80,000 from the National CASA Association to establish a local program to assist abused and neglected children.
Superior Court Judge John Parker, who hears dependency cases in San Joaquin County, strongly encouraged the formation of a local CASA. "Sometimes children can be overwhelmed by the legal system," according to Judge Parker. "These children need our protection and care. CASA volunteers can provide consistency and attention to each child, and look out for their best interests in court matters."
The CASA Program of San Joaquin County operates as an independent program of the Child Abuse prevention Council (CAPC). The CASA Program endeavors to ensure that abused, neglected and abandoned children who have become dependents of the court will have a safe and permanent home. CASA will work with key agencies, legal counsel and community resources to identify and protect the best interests of each child.
All volunteers go through a rigorous screening procedure. Training includes 40+ hours of courtroom and classroom instruction that equips them with the skills necessary to learn the system and advocate for the needs of these children. After appointment by a judge, volunteers will begin serving the court in March 2003.
Volunteers must commit to serve for a minimum of 18 months, to assure consistency and continuity for the children, and to be available to stay with the case until it is permanently resolved. Volunteers are expected to visit their assigned child about every two weeks, go to court 2-3 times a year, and spend about 10-15 hours per month on the case.
To volunteer or to obtain more information, call the CASA Office (209) 644-5313
Concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children's lives without sufficient information, a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. So successful was this Seattle program that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Today more than 950 CASA programs are in operation, including 40 California counties, with 52,000 women and men serving as CASA volunteers.
More information is available on the web: http://www.nationalcasa.org/
Public invitation to attend the March 6th 2003 Graduation ceremony
CASA Fact Sheet
What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
What is the CASA volunteer's role?
A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child's best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, be placed with other relatives, or be freed for permanent adoption.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, 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 and caseworker reports; and other documents.
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 attorneys in presenting their cases.
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 58,000 CASA volunteers nationally. Aside from their CASA volunteer responsibility, 50 percent are employed in regular full-time jobs.
How many cases on average does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?
The number varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but an average caseload is one to two.
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 observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children.