1. Who are the children that CASA of Allegany County serves?
The children that receive a CASA are children from birthday to 21 years of age, who are deemed by the courts to be a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA). They may be in a foster home, group home, private facility, or in a guardianship with a relative. CASAs are not part of other cases such as custody hearings or divorce mediations.
2. Why is a CASA needed?
A CASA volunteer is appointed by the court to be its eyes and ears. The CASA learns about the child and his/her family, strengths, needs, and makes a report to the court. This report is a recommendation for the best plan for the child. This helps the court decide on the best permanent plan for these children in need. A childs CASA advocates for the child’s best interests.
3. How is CASA funded?
CASA of Allegany County is a private, non-profit organization and receives funding through grants from foundations, individuals, corporate contributions and special events.
4. How does a CASA volunteer research a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical and caseworker reports and other documents.
5. How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social worker?
In Maryland, social workers are generally employed by the county government’s Department of Social Services (DSS). They sometimes are responsible for as many as 15 or more cases at a time, which limits the time they have to spend with each child. The CASA works with only one child at a time and therefore has more time to research each child’s individual needs. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court assigned to thoroughly research the child’s case, explore community resources and make a recommendation to the court independent of agency restrictions.
6. How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom. That is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they speak to the child’s best interest.
7. How does the CASA volunteer relate to the child he or she represents?
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reason they are in court and the roles the judge, lawyers and social workers play. CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers. CASA volunteers have input to the age and gender of the child they want to work with. If a CASA volunteer has a special skill, our staff tries to match the CASA with a child who may be in need of such services such as special needs, educational needs, or medical background.
8. How many cases on the average does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?
Most CASAs serve only one child at a time.
9. How much training do CASA volunteers receive?
Volunteers receive 30 hours of training which includes classroom instruction and, online instruction, and three hours of courtroom observation. Training is conducted by CASA staff as well as attorneys, mental health professionals and representatives of the Department of Social Services and other collaborative agencies. In addition, CASA volunteers must complete 12 hours of in-service training each year.
10. How are CASA volunteers supervised?
CASA volunteers have regularly scheduled case conferences with a professional staff member of the CASA program as well as frequent telephone consultation. A monthly group meeting of volunteers and in-service training are offered. CASA staff members are experienced child welfare professionals.
11. How much time will it take each month to serve as an advocate?
The average for an advocate is 5-10 hours a month.
12. How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program, the volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.
13. What qualifications does a CASA advocate need?
CASA advocates are people who want to help abused and neglected children. Advocates come from all walks of life and are all ages. What is needed is the ability to make at least one year’s commitment to the child and an ability to assess a child’s needs. CASAs must be 21 years of age, have reliable trasnportation, and have a clear criminal history.
14. How do I get started?
The first step is to fill out an application. Applications are available online under the Volunteer link, or you can contact our office at 301-777-1262 for an applications. After your application is received, you will be contacted for an in-person interview. CASA training is required for volunteers. Training consists of 30 hours of classes both in person and online, and a 3 hour court observation. Classes are offered several times a year, and morning and evening classes are available.. Following the successful completion of training, you will be sworn in by the Circuit Court of Allegany County as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. You will then be assigned to a child.