CASAs are ordinary citizens from all walks of life. We welcome applications from adults of all ages and from all cultures, professions, and ethnic and educational backgrounds. Court and Department of Human Services employees and others already involved in Iowa's child welfare system may not be eligible due to conflict of interest concerns. The basic requirement for being selected as a CASA is to be a committed, caring adult who can think independently, use good judgment in difficult situations, and communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.
Volunteers must also have time to give to the program and a daytime schedule that allows some flexibility. At least a one-year commitment to CASA is expected unless the child's case is closed by the Court earlier. All applicants are required to submit to an intensive screening process and agree to a criminal history check of their background. References must also be provided.
“Our joys have been in being a part of giving children a second chance in life. Our education has been about the court system. We have a much greater appreciation for the problems and successes of DHS. Our concern is for the family of today. If it were a "perfect" world children would have a father and mother to guide and teach them about life.”
—Parke and Jeneane Marshall, CASA Volunteers
CASA volunteers average around 10 hours per month working on their case. This varies considerably depending on the complexity of the case and the number of children in the sibling group. Initially, when first assigned their case, the CASA will probably spend more time while making their initial contacts and reviewing the records. Extra time is also spent in the month prior to the hearing, when the CASA is preparing their report to the Court.
CASA volunteers are expected to attend every hearing scheduled regarding the case they are assigned to answer questions about their report and to make sure important aspects about the child are not overlooked. These hearings are scheduled approximately every 3 to 6 months, and CASAs are occasionally called on to testify in these hearings. However, the majority of the time a CASA spends on their assigned case is outside the courtroom, visiting the child regularly, interviewing others who are familiar with the child, especially their families, and attending meetings with professionals such as social workers, therapists and teachers to advocate for the child's best interest.
“I was leaving at the end of my visit with one of my “CASA Kids” and he started to cry. I asked him what was wrong and he replied "I thought we would be together until one of us died". He thought when I said “good bye” I meant I was leaving for good, not until next time. He has had so much loss in his life, his response made me realize that he feels that, at least, I will always be there for him. That's what CASA does for children; it gives them someone who will be there for them no matter how many placements they are in or how many DHS workers they have.”
—Angie King, CASA Volunteer
After completing the application process and passing the screening requirements, each volunteer must complete a mandatory pre-service training curriculum, which consists of 30 hours of instruction in the child welfare system, juvenile law and legal procedures, child development, family dynamics, child abuse and neglect issues, interviewing and report writing techniques, advocacy skills and child permanency factors.
Some of the pre-service training is provided in a classroom setting with other new volunteers from across the state. The rest of the pre-service training is provided one-on-one or in small groups by a local CASA Program Coordinator, the same person who will be providing support to the volunteer on an ongoing basis. CASAs also are required to receive training every year they continue with the program. A variety of independent study and group learning experiences are used to meet this in-service training requirement.
Each CASA works with their local Program Coordinator throughout their assigned case. These coordinators are experienced child welfare professionals who are available to guide the CASA through all of their activities and to help them as problems or questions arise.
The content of the CASA's reports is written by the CASA based on their own independent investigation, but the Program Coordinator assists them through consultation and by providing for the formatting, editing and distributing of the report.
Vounteer! Apply today to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate: Help a neglected child.