Providing a voice for St. Louis’ children and youth in foster care.
 

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

 

By volunteering with CASA, you can be a part of this important work - YOU can truly make a lifelong difference for a child.

 
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What impact does the CASA have on the life of the child(ren) they serve?

Children who have experienced abuse or neglect have better outcomes with a CASA volunteer by their side! Studies have shown children with a CASA are more likely to find a safe and permanent home, are more likely to succeed in school, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system. Every day, CASA volunteers are changing a child’s story!

+ What is a CASA volunteer?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a court-appointed, trained, advocate for a child who has experienced abuse and neglect and has been placed in foster care. CASA volunteers represent a child’s best interest in court and the community. CASAs get to know the child as well as gather information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, therapists, and anyone else involved in the child’s life to make informed recommendations to the court regarding placement, physical/mental health services, educational services, etc. CASA volunteers serve as part of a support team of professionals working with the family. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life (working professionals, retirees, etc.) with various backgrounds who have stepped forward to help children in our community.


+ Who are the children CASAs serve?

On any given day, through no fault of their own, there are roughly 1,700 children in foster care in the St. Louis area. These children have been removed from their homes due to allegations of child abuse or neglect. CASA advocates serve children age birth – 20 no matter the circumstances of them coming into care and no matter their placement, whether that be a relative’s home, a foster home, or a residential facility.


+ Why do you need CASA volunteers if you have case managers and attorneys?

CASA volunteers play an entirely different role in the case. The volunteer is the only person whose sole job is to get to know the child and determine what is in his or her best interest. The case manager’s main role is to work with the family and help them to complete services so that their children can be returned to a safe home. Case managers, attorneys and other professionals in the cases have many cases involving many families and children. CASA volunteers work with one sibling unit at a time, so they can have time to dedicate to getting to know the child and really finding out what they need and what would be best for the child’s future. Judges rely heavily on the information they receive from CASA volunteers who are charged with serving as the “eyes and ears” of the court.


+ What support is offered for CASA volunteers?

Every CASA volunteer is paired with a CASA of St. Louis child welfare professional who serves as a resource for information and support to the volunteer throughout their service. Our supervisory staff is eager to help each volunteer in any way they can to be an empowered, informed advocate!


+ What are the requirements for being a CASA?

Individuals who want to be a CASA must be 21 or older, commit 10-15 hours per month in advocating for their child(ren), have flexibility to attend court hearings and meetings scheduled during the day, strong communication skills, have regular access to and ability to use the internet and email, and complete the required preservice screening and training requirements. This includes an application, background check, interview, and 30 hours of training over a five week period.


+ What is the pre-service training to become a CASA?

The CASA volunteer pre-service training consists of a flex-learning, or blended, curriculum that is made up of weekly in-person, 3.5 hour classes with corresponding online modules to be completed prior to each session. The training covers information on the role of the advocate, child development and social issues affecting families, and a broad overview of Missouri child welfare law and the court process relating to child abuse and neglect cases. Professionals who are involved with the local courts and child protective services, including Missouri Children’s Division, are often part of the training. Volunteers also complete a courtroom observation that is done during the last two weeks of training. A volunteer must complete all training and be sworn in to be assigned to a case.


+ Is being a CASA volunteer the same as being a mentor?

The CASA volunteer program is not a mentoring program. CASA volunteers are appointed to children who have come to the attention of the juvenile court system due to abuse or neglect. The CASA volunteer does develop a relationship with the child through frequent contact, however the primary role of the CASA volunteer is to gather information about the child and share that information with the court in both writing and through oral testimony. The CASA volunteer does not go on social outings with the child or play an active role in the child’s day-to-day life. Instead, the CASA volunteer is involved with the child and the case while the child is in foster care, helping him or her during this difficult time to help have the best possible outcome. Once the case has ended, the CASA volunteer does not typically remain involved in the child’s life.


You can learn more about the CASA volunteer role by attending our one hour, no-commitment information session.

 

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