Frequently Asked Questions
What is Voices for Children/CASA?
Voices for Children/CASA is a nonprofit organization devoted to the recruitment, training, and support of community volunteers who advocate for the rights of child victims of abuse and neglect in the 32nd and 33rd Judicial Circuits of Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, Perry and Scott Counties of Missouri in the attempt to facilitate the safe, secure, permanent placement of the child as quickly as possible.
What is a CASA volunteer?
A CASA volunteer is a caring community volunteer who had undergone the thirty-hour CASA training and been sworn in by a family court judge to advocate for the rights of child victims of abuse and neglect in court.
How can a CASA volunteer serve as an effective advocate?
To be effective advocates CASA volunteers demonstrate and maintain interest in and commitment to the welfare of the children in their cases. Advocates must be objective and non-judgmental as they work cooperatively with the professionals and principals in their cases. They need to be willing to listen to and respect the opinions of others, while also being willing to convey their own thoughts and information to the team.
How is this done?
The CASA volunteer’s goal is to guide child victims of abuse and neglect out of foster care as soon as possible and to help them to find safe, secure, permanent homes. The volunteer focuses on four tasks as they work to determine the best interest of the child, and to find a safe, secure, permanent placement for the child. These tasks are to:
- Investigate: The volunteer meets and gets to know the principals in their case. They learn what the child wants, what the parents’ stated goals are relative to reunification with their child, what they are willing to do to achieve those goals, and what is in the best interest of the child.
- Facilitate: The volunteer’s responsibility is to understand and track the receipt of services which have been mandated by the Court. Services range from psychological treatment, parenting classes, educational assistance for the child, as well as medical, vision, and dental services.
- Advocate: Prior to each court hearing the volunteer submits a court report to the CASA office to be e-filed with the court and the other parties to the case. This report records pertinent information in the case since the previous hearing, bullet-points notable information, and makes recommendations to the Court based on that information. The advocate also attends the court hearing and answers questions the judge may have or adds pertinent information.
- Monitor: The CASA volunteer continues to monitor the welfare of the child and the progress of the case until the case is settled and the Court terminates jurisdiction.
How long does a CASA volunteer serve in a case?
CASA volunteers are asked to commit to staying with a case until termination of jurisdiction.
How are CASA volunteers trained?
CASA volunteers receive a thirty-hour volunteer training through the National CASA Association. The training involves 15 hours online and 15 hours in class. The training includes working within the child welfare system, and with children in the system, development of cultural competency, and effective advocacy techniques. During the training the trainee will visit a court hearing, and a panel will be held which will include information from Missouri Children’s Division, the Juvenile Office, and the guardian ad Litem.
Who can be a CASA volunteer?
No special skills are required to be a CASA volunteer. The prospective volunteer simply needs to have the desire to serve and the commitment to make a difference in the life of a child.
An advocate must be at least 21 years old, have access to transportation, be computer literate, and be able to pass a background check. We ask for a two-year commitment to allow for continuity and stability for the children who are being served. Current volunteers range from their early 20’s to late 70’s. Over half of our advocates are employed full-time.
The most significant requirements for being a CASA volunteer are that you have a heart for children, are willing to actively communicate on behalf of the child, commit to serving that child until their case ends, and successfully complete the training.
Men and women of diverse backgrounds are needed as CASA volunteers.
How much time do I need to commit to being a volunteer?
CASA volunteer advocates typically devote 5-10 hours per month to their cases. The amount of time expended in the case depends on where in the case they are and their degree of commitment. The minimum required time is one in person visit per month.
Fostering Futures volunteers will be required to spend more time on their cases, because they will be visiting with their youth at least twice a month in person, and will be making weekly contact.
How many cases will I have?
The caseload for a CASA volunteer averages one case at a time. A case is one child or a sibling group. Some experienced CASA volunteers advocate on two cases concurrently.
How is Voices for Children/CASA funded?
Voices for Children is a 501c3 nonprofit organization which receives minimal state funding from Missouri CASA and no direct federal or local government funding. We receive United Way funding and VOCA pass-through funding. The balance of our monies come from individual and corporate funding and our fund-raising events.
Why should I become a CASA volunteer?
Currently the 32nd and 33rd Judicial Circuits houses over 610 foster children from the ages of 0-18. Each of the children is a victim of abuse or neglect. Missouri Children’s Division workers and juvenile officers are overwhelmed by sheer number of the children who are in care, and each of these children could benefit from the additional set of eyes and ears that a CASA volunteer can provide in a case, as well as from having a voice in the system. Each child needs a caring adult to advocate for them and to be there to provide the individualized attention that children so badly need. The judges who are charge of the cases need the input of adult volunteers who will invest the time necessary to determine what is in the best interest of the child, so that they can make the most informed decision possible in each case.
How many staff members work for Voices for Children? What are their roles?
Voices for Children employs an executive director who focuses on the overall administration of the organization, and four full-time volunteer coordinators who work with our volunteers and supports them in their role as advocates. We also have a part time volunteer receptionist.
Are there other ways that I can assist besides being an advocate?
We recognize that not everyone is able to be an advocate, but there are many other ways that individuals can help to support foster children. We often have vacancies on our Board of Directors. We need monetary and in kind support for special events and fundraisers, as well as individuals and groups who are willing to help us spread the word about the need and the mission of Voices for Children.
Community support is vital to the success of Voices for Children/ CASA as we work to provide increasing numbers of trained volunteers to advocate for a growing number of children who need a voice in the system.