Frequently Asked Questions
What does CASA do?
CASA of Luzerne County was founded on the belief that children who have been abused or neglected deserve a dedicated advocate to speak up for their best interests in court, in school and in our community. To accomplish this goal, CASA recruits, educates, supports, and empowers a diverse community of volunteers who ensure that every child’s unique circumstances are carefully considered in an over-burdened child welfare system.
What is a CASA volunteer?
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child or sibling group in the court system.
Who are the children that CASA serves?
CASA serves children from birth to 18 (and sometimes after 18 if they decide to stay in care). CASA works to assist children in “dependency”. This means that the County is providing supervision and services to a family where they are allegations of abuse and/or neglect. Most of these children have been removed from their home and are living in temporary housing placements such as with relatives, in foster homes, shelters, or residential facilities.
What does a CASA do?
As an advocate, a CASA works diligently to understand the unique history and experiences of their child or sibling group. They do this by spending time with their child and getting to know them. They work hard to establish a bond of trust so that the child can be understood in his or her own terms. They also gather information by reviewing court reports and speaking with family members, teachers, social workers, counselors, caregivers, doctors, and anyone else involved in the child’s life.
Equipped with this knowledge, a CASA provides critical insight to the Court about what would be best for that specific child, ensuring that a careful and customized action plan are developed for each child. By informing and supporting the Court, a CASA ensures the safety and long-term prosperity of their child.
What training does a CASA receive?
Each CASA volunteer receives 30 hours of training. This usually takes place in a classroom environment where judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel, and others specialists provide real-world experiences. CASAs also learn effective advocacy techniques for children and are educated about specific topics ranging from sexual abuse to early childhood development and adolescent behavior. Trainees must observe dependency court proceedings before being assigned to a case. Upon completion of their training, CASAs are sworn in by a Judge.
In addition to the initial training they receive, advocates are expected to complete 12 hours of in-service training annually.
How much time does it require?
Each case is different. A CASA is carefully matched to one child or sibling group that fits their life experience and time availability. CASAs meet with their child at least once a month and they must attend court whenever a court proceeding concerning their child is scheduled. Volunteers spend an average of 10-20 hours a month advocating for their child.
When and Why did CASA of Luzerne County begin?
CASA of Luzerne County began in 2013 to help children who were abused and neglected find a voice. CASA of Luzerne County was started under the leadership of Pennsylvania CASA and in accordance with National CASA guidelines.
How does a CASA differ from a caseworker?
Caseworkers are employed by the County. They work on as many as 30 cases at a time. In contrast, a CASA is assigned to only one child or sibling group at a time. The CASA does not replace a caseworker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the Court and works to become the eyes and ears of the Court and the voice for the child. The CASA can examine a child’s case thoroughly, has knowledge of community resources, and can make recommendations to the Court, independent of state agency restrictions.
How does a CASA differ from an attorney?
The CASA does not provide legal representation in the courtroom and cannot provide legal advice. That is the role of the attorney or Guardian ad litem. The CASA provides crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA does not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they speak to the child’s best interests.
Is there a “typical” CASA?
CASAs come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. We have CASA of all ages. Some have full-time jobs. Some are retired. Whatever a CASA’s unique biography, they all share a passion for helping children and desire to make a difference in their community.
Do lawyers, judges, and social workers support CASA?
Yes. CASA cannot exist without the explicit authority of the Luzerne County court. Judge Jennifer Rogers has been an especially strong supporter of CASA. CASA works in partnership with the county and state to serve our children. Guardians ad litem and Children and Youth Services welcome the passion and information provided by CASAs.
How effective have CASA programs been?
Statistics show that children who have been assigned CASAs spend less time in court and in the foster care system than those with a similar background who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have greater chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children. Nationally, children with a CASA have higher graduation rates, lower truancy rates, lower suicide rates, and are less likely to re-enter the social service system than kids without a CASA.
How long does a CASA remain involved with a case?
A CASA remains committed to a case until it is permanently resolved, i.e., when the child is deemed to be safe and dependency is terminated. This typically takes 18 to 24 months. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child.