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CASA

What is a CASA?

A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

CASA volunteers are caring and motivated people in the community who enjoy helping kids navigate through the court system. Surprisingly, these volunteers do not need to have any legal experience and come from all backgrounds. All volunteers will be trained by staff members and will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing training sessions throughout the year.

The Elkhart County Juvenile Magistrate appoints a CASA volunteer to a child involved in a neglect or abuse case. The CASA is trained to work with all individuals involved, advocating for the best interest of the child. The CASA is encouraged to develop a relationship with the child involved. The CASA provides the magistrate with well-rounded, objective information and recommendations. CASA volunteers are a consistent voice for a child who has no voice in court.

Who can be a CASA?

  • Anyone who cares about children and families
  • Anyone who has reached the age of 21
  • Anyone who has no felony convictions
  • Anyone who can be non-partial

How is a CASA trained?

CASA training consists of a 34 hour course, one night per week for 9 weeks. Topics include court procedures, abuse and neglect information, child development, child advocacy, interviewing procedures, other parties involved in the case. CASA training also includes 4 hours of observation in Elkhart County Juvenile Court.

What does a CASA do?

A CASA helps provide stability and a voice for a child who finds themselves in the system. Sometimes a child can be assigned to several different caseworkers but the CASA remains a constant, dependable voice for the child. What does it take to be a CASA?

Commitment:
Taking on a case can mean taking on a child’s future. You will be asked to make a commitment of at least a year although some cases take longer. The amount of time you give to a case will vary depending on the stage of the proceedings. Nationally, CASA volunteers give an average of 88 hours per year.

Objectivity:
CASA volunteers talk to everyone involved in a case and remain objective in their recommendations. The CASA must be able to build a relationship with a child while keeping in mind that what is best for the child may not be what the child thinks is best.

Good communication skills:
CASA volunteers must be able to talk to a wide variety of people from healthcare professionals to school officials to an angry parent. CASA volunteers present written reports to the court, sometimes speaking in the courtroom on behalf of the child’s best interests.

Who has a CASA?

Every child in Elkhart County involved in the juvenile court system is assigned to the CASA program. In addition CASA’s can be assigned in juvenile delinquency cases at the request of the presiding judge.

How do CASAs make a difference?

CASA volunteers impact the future. By providing advocacy on behalf of a child, the CASA volunteer nurtures potential in each child they work with. The CASA keeps the best interest of the child in the forefront of every meeting, conference, discussion and recommendation made on behalf of the child. The CASA may be the only one with that much focus regarding the child, their situation and the need for a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. Children need stability and permanence in order to develop into the productive individuals they all have the potential to be. The CASA volunteer ensures the child knows someone cares enough about them to focus on these things for them and allows the child to be a child while the adults focus on the other things.

To volunteer to be a CASA click here!

To My CASA...

I'm not too small to misunderstand, nor too insignificant not to be heard. Because you are there beside me, I can share my fears, my loneliness and my uncertainties. Because of you, the past will be just an early chapter in my life's history rather than a summation of my time on earth

Today is better than yesterday, tomorrow might even be glorious! Dear CASA, like most angels, you are usually unsung. But always remember that because of your perseverance, dedication and devotion to a child, you have the power to move Heaven and Earth. May you ever be filled with peace, joy and love in the same abundance as you bring to me. Think of me and smile.

Author: Sally Garrett

For information about CASA, contact the CASA Program Director at 295-2277 or jallen@capselkhart.org.

 

Guardian ad Litem

Indiana statute provides the opportunity for courts to use CASAs as Guardian ad Litems in some situations. CAPS provides Guardian ad Litem services to Elkhart County courts.

A Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the Judge in divorce or paternity cases where there is a dispute or disagreement regarding custody and/or parenting time. The GAL talks to both parties and the child, if appropriate, and may interview or receive written information from other sources. The GAL then provides the Court with objective, neutral information and recommendations on what arrangement is best for the child. GALs are also appointed in guardianship cases (both child and adult). The GAL will often remain in touch with the family to ensure that all court orders are being followed. GALs do not involve themselves in child support or property issues. A GAL must be appointed by the Court.