CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA volunteers are community-based and are appointed by Judges to serve in child abuse and neglect cases. Once assigned to a child, the volunteer researches the child's case, reviews documents, interviews relevant people, and makes a report to the court as to what is in the best interest of the child, in terms of services, placement, visitation, reunification, and permanency.
CASA volunteers are objective, community volunteers who are not part of the child welfare system, who focus their efforts solely on gathering information and making recommendations regarding children in abuse, neglect, or dependency cases-- who would otherwise have no voice. Volunteers are carefully screened and are very well trained; they receive a minimum of 30 hours of initial training and complete 12 hours of ongoing training each year.
CASA volunteers monitor the child’s situation while they are in foster care to make sure they are safe and to make sure their psychological, physical, educational and other needs are met. Volunteers are often the only constant the child knows as he/she moves through the labyrinth of the child welfare system. When a CASA volunteer accepts a case, they must agree to stay with it until the child has a safe, permanent home. Because volunteers carry only 1 or 2 cases at a time and are assigned to each case for its life, they typically have a depth and breadth of information that other parties may not have. Because of this extensive focus on the child, our national motto is "Change a Child's Story."
Illinois CASA was founded in 1993 and is the organizing body for thirty one CASA programs in 53 counties in Illinois that recruit, train and manage 3,000+ CASA volunteers who advocate for the best interests of children who have experienced abuse and neglect and are now involved in the child welfare system. CASA volunteers, who contributed more than 200,000 hours of their collective time last year, are trained and supervised by their local agencies and sworn to confidentiality by the Juvenile Judge of the Circuit Court. CASA volunteers gather objective information and report to the court regularly on the status of each child. This information is used by the Judge to determine if the child should be reunified with their family or prepared for adoption. The CASA volunteer works as a team member with the caseworker assigned by DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) and the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Attorney assigned to the child. Each CASA volunteer is assigned to one case (usually one or two children) at a time and serves on that case until it closes. Often times the CASA volunteer is the only consistent, caring adult in the child’s life.
Illinois CASA, together with its local member programs, supports and promotes court appointed volunteer advocacy for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Our vision is an Illinois in which all children thrive in a safe, permanent and loving home.
We’re Part of Something Bigger
Illinois CASA is part of a national volunteer movement that began in 1977 when a Judge in Seattle decided he needed to know more about the children whose lives were in his hands. He started using community volunteers – regular citizens – as a “voice in court” for abused and neglected children. These Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) provided him with the detailed information he needed to safeguard the children’s best interests and ensure that they were placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. The program was so successful that it was copied around the nation.
Today, the National CASA Association, together with its state and local members, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so that they can thrive in safe, permanent homes. A national network of nearly 1,000 program offices serves children in 49 states.
CASA volunteers are appointed by Judges to advocate for the best interests of abused children and to ensure that they do not get lost in the overburdened child welfare system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home.
National CASA provides local program staff with training and assistance in a variety of areas, including funding, program development and volunteer recruitment and training.