During the summer of 2017 I decided I wanted to give back and help a child in need. I wasn’t sure at the time what that meant but knew that I have something more to offer to honor my mother. I began researching volunteer programs for children, and I came across a nonprofit organization, “Voices for Children,” founded in 1980. Voices for Children provides comprehensive training and professional staff support towards becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate otherwise known as a CASA. People come from all levels of society; they include business executives, teachers, homemakers, attorneys, students, and retirees. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have the compassion and energy to help children in need. To learn more and if you would like to register for an information session go to speakupnow.org and download flyer.
The CASA Program
Voices for Children transforms the lives of abused, abandoned, or neglected children by providing them with trained, volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).
What is a CASA volunteer?
CASAs are Court Appointed Special Advocates. Once a CASA volunteer accepts a case, they are officially appointed by a Juvenile Court judge, authorizing them to become involved in the child’s case and gain access to their records. As the Juvenile Court’s eyes and ears for children in foster care, these volunteer advocates speak up on their child’s behalf and help them through what is often a confusing and scary time.
Why do foster children need CASA volunteers?
The children we serve have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Many feel very much alone—until they meet their CASA. While the foster care system comprises many talented and passionate professionals, it is also overburdened. A lawyer may represent 100 or more children, and a social worker may juggle a caseload of more than 25. CASA volunteers devote their attention to one child or a sibling group, closely monitoring each child’s situation and ensuring their needs are met. A CASA is often the only consistent adult presence in a foster child’s life—the one person a child can truly count on who is not paid to oversee their welfare.
What do CASAs do?
CASAs act as fact-finders for the judges, who oversee an average of 500 cases, providing them with information that they may never get otherwise. CASAs gather information from Court documents, social workers’ files, and educational, medical, and therapy records. They also speak with the child, family members, school officials, health care providers, and other professionals involved in the child’s life. CASAs use this information, as well as firsthand observations, to advocate for the child in Court and school, and in other aspects of their lives. The CASA’s role is to consider what is in the child’s best interest and to make sure that each child’s individual needs are met.
CASAs visit with their case children at least once a month. This provides the children with stability and consistency and allows the CASAs to better understand the needs of the children, as well as the children themselves. Some CASAs build and maintain positive, trusting relationships with their case children, much like mentors.
How do I become a CASA?
Sign up to attend one of our free Information Sessions by completing our online RSVP Form. We encourage you to review our requirements for becoming a CASA before attending. (Please note: Information Sessions are not held at our Meadow Lark office.) Space is limited for each of our sessions; sign up today!
Complete a CASA application to volunteer in either San Diego County or Riverside County. Though you may submit an application after attending the Information Session, we encourage you to submit it prior to attending so you are prepared for the next step. After we have received your application and you have attended an Information Session, you will be ready to schedule an interview with a Voices for Children staff member. If after the interview we determine a mutual fit, you will be invited to begin training. Once accepted into Advocate University…
You will begin training to learn how to be a successful advocate for a foster child. There is a nominal fee for this comprehensive training. (This fee can be waived, if needed.) Advocate University includes 35 hours of classroom and online training, plus the observation of a Juvenile Dependency Court session where you will meet a judge and observe CASAs in action.
At the mid-point in this training, you will be matched with an Advocacy Supervisor—a Voices for Children staff member who will work closely with you on your assigned case. They will provide information on resources and offer guidance and support throughout your CASA service.
Upon graduation and the required security clearance (including criminal and driving record checks), you will be matched with your case child or children. You will have the opportunity to review their files and discuss the case with your Advocacy Supervisor before accepting the match.
Who are CASAs?
We have hundreds of dedicated CASAs—men and women encompassing all age groups and backgrounds. They work full-time, part-time, are retired, and are students. CASAs must be 21+ to volunteer. All CASAs make a minimum commitment of at least 18 months; their average service is 10-15 hours per month. Because of the unique nature of this advocacy work and the personal connection to a foster child, many CASA volunteers find that their service is the experience of a lifetime.
Benefits for CASAs:
- Ongoing support from the Voices for Children staff and fellow CASAs
- Professional experience and personal development through a unique volunteer position that offers networking opportunities and looks great on your résumé
- Planned children’s activities to which you can bring your case child, including arts and crafts days, holiday parties, and museum outings
- Exclusive events for CASAs, their families, and friends
- An official Voices for Children T-shirt
- Mileage reimbursement
- Most importantly, the opportunity to make a positive impact in a child’s life
For More Information:
RSVP for an Information Session!
For other questions on volunteering in San Diego County, please email [email protected] or call (858) 598-2243.
For Riverside County, please email [email protected] or call (951) 472-9301.