What is a CASA Advocate?
An advocate for children in court.
A CASA advocate is a Court Appointed Special Advocate who receives training and volunteers their time to investigate and report on the best interests of a child. In tough custody cases, parents are often unable to focus on the needs of their children. Many of these children are so young they cannot speak for themselves. CASAs give these children a voice in court by focusing on the needs of the child and striving to strengthen parenting skills and family relationships. Advocates come from all walks of life and must go through state mandated training prior to being assigned a case.
The Court assigns Family Law CASA a case to investigate and report on the best interests of the child. In a typical case, an advocate will first meet with an staff supervisor and learn about the case, review relevant papers that have been filed with the court by the parties, and develop a plan on how to proceed. These cases often involve allegations of domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness. The CASA advocate's procedure typically includes:
- Interviewing each of the parents in person; meeting with the child; and observing the child with each parent in the parent’s homes
- Making inquiries about the family by calling collateral references such as day care workers, babysitters, and other family members or friends
- Gathering significant records such as school attendance and report cards
- Reviewing filings, if any, with Children's Protective Services
- Reviewing a criminal records check on each adult in the home performed by the program staff
- Reviewing counseling or treatment records of the parents
Once the investigation is complete, the CASA advocate writes a report describing the following:
- Background of the child and family
- Issues assigned to CASA by the court
- Description of each person’s interview
- Description of key records gathered
- Conclusions and recommendations regarding the best interests of the child
Before being submitted, the report is reviewed by a Family Law CASA supervisor and the staff attorney. The CASA advocate may need to appear at a court hearing to support the report. Often additional investigation is needed before the case is resolved or goes to trial. An advocate may need to write additional reports as issues change within the family. Finally the advocate may need to appear at a settlement conference where the parties attempt to resolve the case without court action. If that process is not successful, the Court Appointed Special Advocate will testify at the trial.
If you are interested in volunteering as a CASA advocate, simply complete the Application Form.