Report Child Abuse
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
CASA volunteers are ordinary people who care about children. They do not need any legal expertise. They come from all backgrounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Barb Vernon at 295-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.