What is CASA?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate for children. The first CASA program was developed in Seattle, in 1977, by Judge David Soukup who recognized the need for children involved in dependency court to be represented by an impartial advocate who could speak on behalf of the child. To meet this need, Seattle began recruiting, training, and appointing qualified community volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children. Following the success and model of this program, numerous programs began cropping up across the nation. In 1984, the National CASA Association opening its doors in Seattle followed by Washington State CASA in 1988. Whatcom County started our program in 2008, and today there are over 50,000 CASA volunteers advocating for children across the country.
What does a CASA do?
CASA volunteers are assigned to a case when it enters the juvenile court system. The CASA’s role includes conducting an independent investigation, making reports and recommendations to the court at scheduled hearings, monitoring the progress of the child and the parties’ compliance with court orders, and continually advocating for the best interests of the child. Ideally, the assigned CASA will follow the case from the beginning to the end and will continually visit and monitor the progress of the child and report on these observations to the court.
CASAs are crucial to meeting the goals of the court in providing for the best interest, safety, and well-being of the child. CASAs are able to assist the court in reaching the goal of swift and appropriate permanency planning to establish stability for dependent children.
How do you become a CASA?
The first step to becoming a CASA is to contact the CASA Coordinator at (360) 676-6780 Ext. 50136 and request an application. Once you return your completed application you will be contacted to begin the interview process. Those candidates selected will attend a 30 hour CASA Volunteer training in Bellingham as well as a program orientation. After successful completion of these steps you will be ready to take your first case! The only prerequisite for applying is that you be 21 years of age and dedicated to advocating for abused and neglected children.
What is the time commitment?
After completing the core CASA Volunteer Training, CASAs will spend a varying amount of time each month in their new role. Depending on the needs and interests of each CASA and their cases, they may spend 5-10 hours each month working with children, families, and attending hearings.