CASA of Branch County
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program?
CASA of Branch County was established in 2008 with the purpose of helping abused or neglected children navigate the often confusing and frightening courtroom experience. CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens who are willing to go behind the doors of juvenile and family courts, to ease the pain and trauma of children in crisis, to investigate and offer the judge invaluable case information, ensuring that the system is accountable and upholding the best interests of the child.
What is a CASA volunteer and what is the volunteer’s role?
A CASA is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of an abused and neglected child in court. A CASA provides the judge with carefully researched reports about the child and his or her circumstances to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. The CASA follows through with the child’s case until a safe, permanent home is obtained.
What are the requirements to becoming a CASA volunteer?
- Be 21 years of age
- Complete Volunteer Application
- Participate in screening interviews
- Submit to criminal background investigation (Child Abuse/Sex Offender Registry/Department of Motor Vehicles)
- Proof of own insured transportation
- Participate in CASA training
- Be approved by CASA Board
- Commit to program for 12-18 months
Does a CASA volunteer need to have any special training or educational background?
No. CASA of Branch County provides the necessary training to become an advocate volunteer.
What commitments would the CASA be making?
When appointed as a CASA, the CASA agrees to: work with the child until the conclusion of his or her case (average 12-15 months); to meet with the child on a weekly basis; to maintain confidentiality; and to abide by the protocol that CASA of Branch County has established.
How many hours a month will the CASA be required to volunteer?
After 35 hours of initial training, volunteers set their own hours based on their schedule, and the schedule of the child and their caregivers. Expect to spend at least 2 hours a week visiting the child and making phone calls. During times when there is a report due, or a change is occurring, more time may be required to gather information and produce the required reports for court.
How does the CASA relate to the child they represent?
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reasons they are in court (if child is asked to appear), and roles of the judges, lawyers, social workers, etc. CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express their own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers.
How many cases will the CASA volunteer be asked to carry?
Volunteers will only be asked to carry one case at a time.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a report to the court, the CASA talks with the child, parents, foster care parents, family members, social workers, school officials, child’s attorney, Department of Human Services (DHS) case workers, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child. CASA volunteers are legally appointed to their child and have access to confidential information such as school, case worker reports and medical records.
What kind of support do the CASA volunteers have from the CASA staff?
CASA provides a program coordinator for direct support. The coordinator attends court and assists in preparing reports, and is available to provide advice and guidance to the volunteer.
What if I can’t be an Advocate but still want to help?
There are many other ways that you can help CASA, including simply spreading the word to others. We often need help with mailings, special events, etc. Contact the program coordinator for further information.
How do I get more information about becoming a CASA of Branch County volunteer?
Contact the program coordinator at:
CASA of Branch County
Wendi Paradine, Program Coordinator
31 Division St.
Coldwater, MI 49036