A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a trained and dedicated community volunteer assigned to lift the voice of a youth in the DC Foster Care system. Through this core program, CASA volunteers are assigned to work with children who have open abuse and neglect cases in the DC Family Court. The children range in age from infant to 21 and have a broad range of needs. CASA volunteers are appointed and sworn in by judges in order to fully investigate a youth’s circumstances and advocate for what is in the youth’s best interest. While teachers, therapists and other professionals come and go, the CASA provides a constant support for the youth to count on in order to thrive.
For an abused or neglected youth, a CASA is a caring adult in their corner making sure their voice is heard. For volunteers, being a CASA is a way to create a long-term, meaningful impact locally.
Responsibilities of a CASA Volunteer:
- Complete training: All volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training, which provides an overview of the foster care system in DC as well as what to expect when working with a youth who has been abused or neglected. In addition, volunteers must complete 12 hours of in-service training annually.
- Build a relationship: Visit the child twice a month. Your visits can be anything ranging from bike riding, to volunteering together at an animal shelter, to working on college applications
- Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the child, family, and professionals in the child’s life
- Document findings: Write a court report for each hearing
- Attend court hearings: Appear at the youth’s hearings and provide testimony when necessary. Hearings are roughly 30 minutes and occur every 3-4 months during the day on weekdays.
- Explain what is going on: Help the youth 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.
CASAs spend an average of 10 hours a month working on their case. While volunteers are required to serve one year, we hope that each CASA volunteers will remain on their case until it is closed.
While CASA DC serves any child in foster care, we have created four programs to provide targeted support to specific populations in need. To learn more about these programs, please visit our programs page.