What Is CASA?
CASA Kane County is a Guardian ad Litem, non-profit volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of children in abuse, neglect, and probate court within the Juvenile Justice system. The organization collaborates with our judiciary, agencies and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to find permanent and safe homes for children in foster care. CASA recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers that are then supported by 19 professional staff, 25 Board of Directors and 40 Children’s Ambassador Panel members.
The first CASA program began in 1977 in Seattle, Washington by Judge David Soukup. He knew more needed to be done in the lives of children in foster care. He sparked a movement and today we have over 1,000 organizations nationally.
The children we serve come into abuse/neglect or private guardianship cases and range in age from birth to 21.
CASA programs are the only volunteer organizations that are directly connected to the court. Our CASA/GAL volunteers are sworn-in and appointed by a judge to advocate for a child who otherwise may not be heard. As adults come and go in the lives of abused and neglected children, they desperately need one consistent adult to stay with them for the length of their court case. They research and learn what the child’s needs are, make recommendations and prevent a child from falling through the cracks of the child welfare system.
Who, What And How To Become a CASA/GAL Volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a community volunteer who is recruited, trained and supervised by a CASA Kane County Advocate Supervisor and appointed by a Judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA/GAL volunteers spend on average 10-15 hours a month advocating for a child and the average case is three years. The CASA/GAL volunteer will research, interview and listen to the child to determine whether it is in their best interest to be reunified with their parents, placed in guardianship with a relative or adopted by a foster family. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement and services to the judge and follows through until case closure.
Prospective CASA/GAL volunteers should attend a general information meeting, submit an application with references, complete an interview with the program staff and attend a 45 hour training. A complete criminal history and child abuse registry check is performed on each applicant. Upon completion of their training, CASA/GAL volunteers are sworn in by the Juvenile Court Judge and promise to maintain strict confidentiality, objectivity, and professionalism throughout their appointment.
The most important benefit of being a CASA volunteer is the chance to make a meaningful contribution to the life of a child who desperately needs your help. Many volunteers choose to stay in contact with their CASA “kids” even after they age out of foster care.
Why CASA When There Are Attorneys, DCFS & Other Agencies?
Social service caseworkers are employed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or other contracted agencies. The CASA/GAL volunteer does not replace a social service caseworker, rather they provide a third party objective view to the court. The CASA/GAL is assigned to one case at a time, giving them the time to spend learning about each child, while social service caseworkers often have 20 or more cases.
No! There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA Kane County is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
How Effective Is CASA?
CASA Kane County is appointed to 100% of abuse and neglect cases in the 16th Juvenile Circuit Court of Illinois. Children who suffer abuse and neglect are at risk of mental illness, unemployment, homelessness, engaging in criminal activity or worse. A major factor in preventing these outcomes is the presence of a concerned and consistent adult in that child’s life.
Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and in the foster care system than those who do not have a CASA volunteer.
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 court,” and frequently acts as “the arms and legs” of an overworked child protective system.
Why Does CASA Need Funding & How Do I Donate?
The organization receives limited state and federal funding and must raise additional revenue through private donations and grants. Operating a nonprofit organization of this size requires an experienced professional staff to recruit, train, retain and supervise the 225 CASA volunteers who serve over 500 children annually. There are also administrative, fundraising and operating expenses and it is required by law for a nonprofit to remain transparent, compliant and to maintain the quality advocacy organization that our community expects.
You can support CASA Kane County through individual and corporate donations, event sponsorships, corporate matching gift program, leaving a legacy or by hosting a fundraising event. Your contribution will help support CASA/GAL volunteers in their efforts to help our most vulnerable children. Click here to learn more.
Other Important Questions About CASA:
There are lots of ways! From volunteering at a special event to gathering basic essentials for our foster youth, we invite you to contact our office at 630-232-4484 and we will connect you with the right person to answer your questions.
Contact the CASA office at 630-232-4484 and we will schedule a CASA representative to work with you.