Child Advocates of Silicon Valley is a member of the National CASA organization, a network of nearly 1,000 local community programs supporting children in the foster care system who have experienced abuse and neglect. Our volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are dedicated, trustworthy and compassionate people who are willing to serve as officers of the court and mentor a foster child in Santa Clara County. Hundreds of foster children are waiting for a CASA. If you think you might be interested in having a meaningful and substantive impact on the life of a child, read through the FAQ’s below.
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)?
A CASA is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by a judge to advocate for a foster child’s best interest in court after they’ve been placed in the dependency court system for having experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. CASA volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure the child’s voice is heard. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.
Who can be a CASA volunteer?
No special skills are required to be a CASA, but each CASA must have the desire and commitment to mentor a child who has experienced abuse or neglect. CASA’s must meet eligibility requirements and complete the five steps to becoming a CASA.
How much time is required as a CASA?
CASA volunteers generally see their youth 3-4 times per month, spending about 10 to 13 hours per month on volunteer responsibilities. Approximately twice a year, CASAs submit reports to the court and attend a court hearing regarding the child. In order to ensure stability and constancy for the children we serve, CASAs are asked for a commitment of 12 months with a child.
How do I begin?
Step 1: Attend an Info Session to Submit an Application
Attending a volunteer info session is your chance to learn more about the program. After the session, interested parties will be asked to fill out an application and schedule a first interview.
You can register for an upcoming info session by filling out the registration form here.
Step 2: Participate in Your First Interview
The first interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the role and responsibilities of a CASA and for us to learn more about you. The interview is conducted on site at Child Advocates by one of our CASA Specialist staff members and last 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 fully prepare you to be a successful CASA. Training includes 30 hours of in-person and online classes, 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 training fee, due by the first day of class to cover background checks (DMV, DOJ, FBI, CACI, SSN). During training, you wil also be required to provide a copy of your driver's license, proof of auto insurance and three reference letters from non-family members.
Pre-service training sessions are held 5 times a year. Sign up for an info session now to get started!
Step 4: Participate in Your Second Interview
Your second interview is an opportunity to meet your assigned Child Advocates supervisor, go over any concerns, provide feedback and discuss the type of case you want to be assigned to.
Step 5: Select a Case
You supervisor will provide you with profiles of cases to review. You will then select your case, receive a court order and begin advocating.
What are the typical “month in the life” activities of a CASA volunteer?
As a CASA, 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.
Can I choose my advocate child?
Cases are not randomly assigned to CASAs; rather, CASAs 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. CASAs receive 30 hours of mandatory pre-service training (in-person and online) and 12 hours of additional training each year. You will learn about the child welfare system, how to work with children involved in the system, and other skills necessary to help your advocate child. CASA training sessions are held 5 times a year.
What if I have questions or need help once I become a CASA?
Each CASA is continuously supported by, and in contact with, one of our CASA Specialists or 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.