A CASA is a well-trained individual who can devote the time necessary to listen to the child, investigate their concerns and situation and develop feasible options for the Court to consider that represent the best interest of the child. They are not tethered to an overburdened caseload and they are not responsible for focusing on the entire family. They are not responsible for providing appropriate legal representation but rather mentorship and support. To be clear, a CASA is not designed to be an adversary to the social worker or the attorney, but rather is an important member of the team whose ultimate goal is the best interest of that child.
CASAs stand up for abused, and neglected children as they travel through the Court system; in short they are the voice of the child. In an overburdened system where children risk slipping through the cracks, the CASA’s sole goal is to see that the child’s best interests are served.
A CASA must be over the age of 21. They must successfully pass a criminal background investigation and submit to and receive a clear CANS (a system that contains information on reported cases of Child Abuse) report. They must provide at least three references that are not relatives. They must submit to a thorough interview and are screened closely for objectivity, competence and commitment. We require a two-year commitment for all our CASAs (that is the normal time frame for a case). Once they have passed the screening process they must attend and successfully complete the training program (approximately 40 hours). Only after completing the training are they sworn in as a CASA.
Each case is different however, normally, a CASA will initially spend about 10 to 15 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance (normally 30 days after being assigned the case) and another few hours writing a court report and developing recommendations. The more complicated the case, the more time. During this initial period, the CASA must be available to attend the court hearings. Once the initial case is heard, the CASA will work about 10 hours a month monitoring the case, meeting with DCFS, the school, the parents and most importantly the child.