Today I completed my CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children) training. My training was 33 hours of classroom training and tomorrow my class will be sworn in as CASA volunteers by a Judge Peter Sakei. Then I will be able to be assigned to a case of a child or children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers gather information about the case, but their main function is to advocate for the needs for the child or children to whom they have been assigned.
Being a CASA is not an easy job. The CASA volunteer remains on a case with a child or children for the entire year that the child or children have been removed from the home. Often They are the only constant person in the child’s life over the course of the year. There may be different caseworkers, various foster families or other placements, but the CASA voltuneer is always there to advocate for services to the child and to speak for the child and make known to the court the child’s best interests.
CASA workers are volunteers; they are not paid and have no agenda other than providing for the best interests of the child. They gather information about the case: about the parents, the foster parents, the school, the counselors the child sees. The judge relies heavily on what the CASA worker finds and recommends in making a decision about where the child will eventually be permanently placed. They help the judge determine if the child should be returned home if the parents have worked their service plan to correct things that were wrong or if the parents’ rights should be terminated because they have not cooperated with the court-ordered service plan. It is a great responsibility and I pray that I will do a good job for the child or children to whom I am assigned.
Although it is a difficult and responsible job, it is a rewarding job. Many more CASA volunteers are needed for the many children in the CPS (Child Protective Services) custody, especially in the San Antonio area where the rate of abused and neglected children is very high. My hope is that more people will step up and become CASA volunteers.