What is CASA of Wise and Jack Counties?
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Wise and Jack Counties assists family courts by providing trained volunteers who advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children by making recommendations for safe and permanent homes. We are a volunteer-powered agency where children’s lives are changed every day.
Every year, many Wise and Jack County children are removed from their parents and placed in foster care due to abuse and/or neglect. Child Protective Services (CPS) has gained legal custody of these children, and has approximately one year to either reunite them with family, or place them up for adoption. These children are at risk for falling through the cracks of an overburdened child welfare system. CASA of Wise and Jack Counties provides caring, unbiased volunteers who take a stand for the children on the case they represent.
CASA of Wise and Jack Counties is part of a nationwide organization of Court Appointed Special Advocates with 920 chapters and 70,000 volunteers in 50 states. CASA of Wise and Jack Counties is accredited my both National CASA and Texas CASA.
What is a volunteer advocate?
A volunteer advocate is appointed by a judge to be an independent voice in court for an abused or neglected child who has been placed in foster care. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They speak up for children who have been neglected, abused, ignored. They’re trained and they have a cause – with a first and last name.
What is a volunteer advocates role?
After completing a 32-hour training class provided by CASA of Wise and Jack Counties, newly sworn in volunteers are assigned a Child Advocacy Supervisor. The supervisor guides, mentors, and supports the volunteer throughout the entire life of the court case. Volunteers follow set protocol for minimum standards, including visiting the child regularly. Volunteer advocates work closely with, but independent of, Child Protective Services and attorneys.
The role of the volunteer advocate is:
To Be a Fact-Finder for the Judge: The volunteer advocate talks with the child, parents, family members, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The volunteer advocate then provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future.
To Speak for the Child in Court: The volunteer advocate makes a recommendation to the judge for permanent placement, whether it is in the best interest of the child to live with the parent(s), live with relatives, remain in foster care, or be available for permanent adoption.
How does a volunteer advocate relate to the child?
CASA volunteers offer children consistency, trust, and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. Throughout the ongoing relationship, CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his or her own opinions about permanency while remaining objective observers. Pre-service training includes ways to engage children of various ages and diverse backgrounds. CASA volunteers are never alone with a child, and they are not responsible for investigating allegations of abuse. A volunteer’s interactions with a child are focused on building a healthy, safe connection with a caring advocate.
How does a volunteer advocate differ from a government caseworker with Child Protective Services?
Caseworkers are employed by state governments. They work on as many as 30 cases at a time and are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each. The CASA worker is a volunteer with more time and a smaller caseload (an average of 1-2 cases at a time). The CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer examines a child’s case thoroughly, knows about available community resources, and makes a recommendation to the court, independent of state agency restrictions.
How does a volunteer advocate differ from an attorney?
The volunteer advocate does not provide legal representation in the courtroom; that is the role of the attorney. A volunteer advocate speaks specifically to what is in the best interests of the child and provides crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases.
How do the legal and child welfare systems view CASA?
CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice. CASA is described as “the eyes and ears of the judge,” and frequently acts as “the arms and legs” of an overworked child protective system.
Which children in foster care are assigned a volunteer advocate?
Any child who has been abused or neglected and has become a ward of the court may be assigned a volunteer advocate per a judge’s request.
Our goal is to provide a volunteer advocate to every child who needs one. The staff at CASA of Wise and Jack Counties tries to assign every foster child a volunteer, but sadly, there are not enough trained volunteer advocates to meet the need. One of the agency’s strategic planning goals is the eliminate the “waiting list” of children who need an advocate but do not have one.
Where does CASA receive its financial support?
The National CASA organization is a priority project of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The OJJDP encourages establishment of new programs, assists established programs. and provides funding for the National CASA Association.
The Texas Legislature sets aside funds specifically for Texas CASA programs, which are distributed by our state organization. The remaining funds are raised through foundation grants, civic and corporate organizations, individual contributions, 3rd party fundraisers, and CASA’s special events.
Are there any other agencies or groups that provide the same service?
No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA of Wise and Jack Counties is the only program consisting of volunteers appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests. We are a truly un-duplicated service.
Can I donate directly to CASA?
Absolutely. CASA welcomes any amount you are able to give. On average, it costs $1,500 to support a volunteer serving a child through the entirety of the child’s case. Every donation makes an immediate and direct impact on an abused child’s life.
What is a "typical" volunteer advocate like?
Volunteer advocates come from all walks of life, representing a variety of ethnic, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Approximately two-thirds of our volunteer advocates are employed full-time, some are college students, and some are retired. The one thing they have in common is the conviction that every child deserves a safe, loving, and permanent home.
What is the time commitment for being a volunteer advocate?
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends more time conducting research and interviews prior to the first court appearance. Once the initial investigation is complete, volunteers spend approximately 12-15 hours a month maintaining contacts and gathering information. The length of the case can vary, but typically the case will be between 12 to 18 months long. It’s critical that volunteers carefully consider this long-term commitment before accepting a case. These children need a strong advocate to work with them through their difficult time, and consistency is key.
Are volunteer advocates compensated?
Advocates are volunteers and are not monetarily compensated.
Does a volunteer advocate need legal training? What training does a volunteer advocate receive?
Volunteer advocates are not required to have a background in law; CASA of Wise and Jack Counties provides all the necessary training. We conduct training sessions throughout year. The 32-hour blended learning course combines online and classroom training. It provides volunteer advocates with an overview of courtroom procedure from judges, lawyers, and caseworkers. Volunteers also learn about specific topics ranging from the causes and consequences of abuse and neglect, to early childhood development, and cultural diversity.
How do I become a volunteer advocate?
Volunteer advocates must be at least 21 years of age and satisfactorily pass a fingerprint background check (which includes Social Security Number verification, a criminal background check, and sex offender registry checks). They also must have a valid driver’s license, a good driving record, proof of automobile insurance, reliable transportation, and the ability to be both compassionate and objective.