Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer?
All Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers are trained community members who are appointed with a court order by a judge to advocate for the best interests of a child in foster care. They stay with each case for up to a year or until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home. CASA Volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators, service providers and family members to ensure the child’s voice is heard. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child. Learn more about our Court Appointed Special Advocates Program.
Who can be a CASA Volunteer?
Candidates must have the desire and commitment to help a child who has experienced abuse or neglect. Candidates must meet eligibility requirements and complete the five steps to becoming a CASA Volunteer.
What is the process to become a CASA Volunteer?
There are five steps a candidate must complete to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer.
- Step 1: Attend an Info Session to Submit an Application – Attending a volunteer info session is an opportunity to learn more about the CASA Program. After the session, interested parties will be asked to fill out an application and schedule a first interview.
- Step 2: Participate in a First Interview – The first interview is an opportunity to learn more about the role and responsibilities of a CASA Volunteer and for Child Advocates of Silicon Valley to learn more about you. The interview is conducted on-site at Child Advocates by one of our CASA Supervisors and lasts from 60-90 minutes. It’s our responsibility to make sure the volunteers who work with our children are here for the right reasons, and we take that very seriously.
- Step 3: Complete Pre-Service Training – Our pre-service training will prepare you to be a successful CASA Volunteer. Candidates must complete 30 hours of training, plus a guided Dependency Court tour and culminates with a swearing-in ceremony conducted by a Santa Clara County Dependency Court judge. There is a $55.00 non-refundable training fee, due by the first day of class to cover background checks (DMV, DOJ, FBI, CACI, SSN). During training, you will also be required to provide a copy of your driver’s license, proof of auto insurance and three reference letters from non-family members. CASA Volunteer pre-service training sessions are held four to five times a year.
- Step 4: Participate in a Second Interview – A second interview is an opportunity to meet your assigned CASA Supervisor, go over any final questions or concerns the agency may have with your candidacy or that you may have about the program, provide feedback and discuss the type of case you want to be assigned to.
- Step 5: Select a Case – Your CASA Supervisor will provide you with profiles of cases to review. You will then select your case, receive a Court order and begin advocating.
How much time is required as a CASA Volunteer?
CASA Volunteers generally see their youth 3-4 times per month, spending about 10 to 13 hours per month on volunteer responsibilities. This includes but is not limited to: visits with the child; creating and updating Advocacy Plans for their assigned child; attending Court hearings; completing ongoing CASA education requirements; and advocating for the youth as needed. CASA Volunteers are expected to stay with each case for up to 18 months or until the case is closed.
What are the typical “month in the life” activities of a CASA Volunteer?
You could spend time on some of the following activities in a typical month:
- Talking with your advocate child, listening to his or her experiences and feelings.
- Spending time with your advocate child, participating in activities he or she enjoys.
- Reading and reviewing case files about your advocate child.
- Talking with your advocate child’s parents as well as teachers, social workers and attorneys who work with the child’s case.
- Working with social services or your child’s school to address a specific need.
- Talking with your CASA Supervisor to get help and guidance with any issues or questions you encounter while advocating for your child.
How much money will I spend as a CASA Volunteer?
While you might spend money on activities with your child, such as going out to eat or to the movies, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley offers multiple resources for you to use. Examples include, but are not limited to: tickets to local events, gift cards to a variety of stores; and museum memberships. We also have “The Store” onsite where CASA Volunteers can get brand new clothes, toys, games, and/or activities for their child.
What kind of children will I be advocating for?
We serve children aged birth to 21 years old, who have been placed in the Santa Clara County Dependency Court System for having experienced abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. Roughly half of all foster children experience four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ACES are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood such as experiencing violence, abuse, and/or neglect. ACEs have been linked to risky behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death. Our children are some of the most vulnerable in Silicon Valley and are in dire need of a caring, stable adult in their lives.
Can I choose my CASA Child/Youth?
Cases are not randomly assigned to CASA Volunteers; rather, CASA Volunteers work with our staff to choose a case that is right for them. We will select cases for you to read based on your personal preferences, but the decision as to which case you take is ultimately up to you.
Do I receive training?
Yes. Candidates who want to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer are required to complete 30 hours of pre-service training. Training is conducted by Child Advocates of Silicon Valley staff, justice partners and content matter experts. Topics range from child development to cultural sensitivity and Court procedures. Training prepares candidates to be successful CASA Volunteers. CASA Volunteers are also required to complete 12 hours of ongoing education over the course of their volunteer service. CASA Specialists offer monthly workshops and discussion groups on a variety of topics to help CASA Volunteers meet this requirement.
What if I have questions or need help once I become a CASA Volunteer?
Each CASA Volunteer is continuously supported by, and in contact with, one of our CASA Supervisors or CASA Mentors, who are trained professionals with considerable experience in all aspects of child advocacy. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.