Frequently Asked Questions
What is CASA of Grayson County?
CASA of Grayson County is the only recognized not-for-profit organization whose primary role is to train and supervise volunteers who are appointed by the court to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children. CASA of Grayson County is an affiliated member of both Texas CASA and the National CASA network with 933 chapters in all 50 states.
What is a CASA Volunteer?
A CASA volunteer is a trained community member who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of a child or family of children in the court system. Volunteers spend an average of 10 hours a month advocating for these children for at least a year. They get to know the child while also gathering information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, caregivers and anyone else involved in the child’s life.
CASA volunteers serve as the guardian ad litem, an official representative in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case entitled to access information about the child’s situation and required to make reports to the court in the child’s best interest. CASA volunteers speak for what is in the child’s best interest while the attorney ad litem speaks on behalf of the child’s wants or preferences – often these two opinions differ with serious potential consequences.
Exactly what does a CASA volunteer do?
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:
- Gather information: Conduct thorough research through review of documents and records, and speaking with children, family members and professionals in their lives.
- Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
- Appear in court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
- Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed.
- Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members.
How much time does it take to be a CASA volunteer?
The time commitment to a case varies depending upon the nature and the stage of the case. Volunteers sometimes say that there is a greater amount of work in the beginning of the case, when they are conducting their initial research. On average, you can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a month on a case. Most cases require going to court 2 or 3 times during each six-month period to present a report with recommendations to the judge. Once a volunteer is assigned to a case, he/she must have face to face contact with the child at least once a month which may require travel outside of Grayson County. Some time is also spent making contact with people who are involved in the child’s life.
More time is spent on a case when it is first assigned, as this is the more intensive fact-finding stage. As the case moves toward resolution, cases require less time.
Do I need to make a long-term commitment to the program?
We ask for a minimum of a 12 month commitment since this is the average time span of a case.
What does it take to become a CASA?
You must be an adult (over 21 years of age) who cares about the well-being of children, who is interested in learning how to do basic investigations and is willing to speak up for a child in court. After a background check, you will be given training and after you have been assigned a case, a CASA supervisor will work with you and support you and guide you through the process. To find out more, call us at 903-813-5400.
What kind of training does a CASA volunteer receive?
CASA of Grayson County conducts numerous training classes each year. The initial 33-hour training course provides volunteers with an overview of specific topics ranging from symptoms and effects of abuse and neglect to early childhood development and cultural diversity. Training also covers local courtroom and procedures with 3 hours spent completing courtroom observation.
After initial training, volunteers are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education annually.
How does a CASA Volunteer differ from a CPS Caseworker?
CASA Volunteers typically have only one or two cases at a time. Because CASAs are volunteers and are only addressing the child’s needs, they are viewed as less adversarial by the affected families, thereby eliciting greater cooperation and gaining important information which can be used to ensure the child’s best interests are being met.
CPS Caseworkers are assigned to multiple cases where they monitor and act on the children’s needs and monitor the parent’s progress in achieving necessary skills and other goals. Caseworkers often have many cases concurrently and are not able to monitor to the same depth as a CASA.
How does a CASA Volunteer differ from a child’s attorney?
CASA does not provide legal representation or advice; that is the role of the Child’s attorney. CASAs often interact more frequently with the children than the attorney. By providing the attorney with crucial background information, CASAs assist the attorney in their representation of the child in the court. The CASA also testifies independently of the Child’s attorney.
Does CASA make a difference in the life of a child in foster care?
Absolutely! Nation-wide studies and audits on the benefits of a CASA volunteer conclude:
- Children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than 3 years in care: 13.3% for CASA cases versus 27.0% of all children in foster care.
- When a CASA volunteer was involved, both children and their parents were ordered by the courts to receive more services. The audit concluded that this was an indication that “CASA is effective in identifying the needs of children and parents.”
- Cases involving a CASA volunteer are more likely to be “permanently closed” (i.e., the children are less likely to reenter the Child Protective System).
Where does CASA receive its financial support?
CASA of Grayson County has a 501(c) (3) classification from the federal government and is a registered non-profit charity. As such, CASA depends on the generosity of the public in the way of individual, corporate, and foundation support. All contributions to CASA are tax deductible.