Lake Country CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. 218 Connally St.  Sulphur Springs, TX 75482  903/885-1173Court Appointed Special Advocates - Children's Advocacy Organization for Hopkins County,  Rains County and Franklin County Texas. CASA Headquarters 218 Connally St.  Sulphur Springs, TX 75482  903/885-1173
CASA Vision
A CASA volunteer for every child
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Mission
To provide trained, court appointed volunteers to be the voice for the children who are under the protection of the state to assure them a safe, permanent environment.
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"CASA volunteers play a unique role on behalf of some of our most vulnerable children. Their commitment, vigilance and persistence offer hope where there has been little." — Marian Edelman, Founder and President, Children's Defense Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Court Appointed Special Advocates - Children's Advocacy Organization for Hopkins County,  Rains County and Franklin County Texas. CASA Headquarters 218 Connally St.  Sulphur Springs, TX 75482  903/885-1173What function do Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers serve?
CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused and neglected children in foster care, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.

As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:

  • Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of the assigned case
  • Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, representing his or her best interests
  • Act as a "watchdog" for the child for the duration of the case, ensuring it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion

How are CASA volunteers assigned to cases?
Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases involving physical or sexual abuse and neglect. Several other factors are also considered in making this decision:

  • The instability of the child's current placement
  • The presence of conflicting case information
  • Concerns about the implementation of special services, such as medical care, counseling and education assistance

How many children in foster care are appointed a CASA volunteer?
Last year, 75,000 CASA/GAL volunteers advocated for more than 240,000 children in the foster care system in this country.

What are the qualifications to become a CASA volunteer?
Commitment: The vast majority of cases last one to two years, and the amount of time spent on a case per month typically averages 10 hours. Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide quality advocacy.
Objectivity: Volunteers research case records and speak to everyone involved in a child's life, including their family members, teacher, doctor, lawyer, social worker and others. Their third-party evaluations are based on facts, evidence and testimonies.
Communication skills: Once a volunteer has fully evaluated a case, they prepare a written report outlining their recommendation for the child's placement. They must be able to speak with authority as they present their rationale to the judge in court.

Do I have to be a lawyer or social worker?
No. People from all walks of life become CASAs. After you have been accepted into the CASA program, you will receive a minimum of 30 hours of training to prepare you for your work as a CASA. You will receive ongoing support from CASA staff. Being a CASA volunteer requires no specialized degrees or legal experience. It does require special people over age of 21 who have:

  • A concern for children;
  • A genuine desire to help;
  • The ability to remain objective;
  • The maturity to deal with emotional situations;
  • The commitment to complete a 30-hour minimum training course;
  • Sensitivity to people who are different from themselves;
  • Access to transportation and a flexible schedule; and
  • A willingness to devote at least one year to a child's case. 

Do I have time for this?
Most CASA volunteers work full time and find the CASA experience flexible enough to accommodate their schedules. You will go to court about 4-5 times a year and attend a few daytime meetings. The rest of a CASA volunteer's work is done on his or her own time – visiting the child, reviewing records and reading and writing reports. You will meet, email and call others involved in the case. Throughout a child's case, volunteers typically spend an average of 15 hours a month, including travel time and phone calls.

Can I handle this emotionally?
CASA volunteers are assigned to a case after the alleged child abuse or neglect has occurred and the child is placed in foster care.  The CASA's focus is on determining the child's current and future needs.  CASA staff provides emotional support and guidance throughout the case and accompanies volunteers to court hearings.

What kinds of children will I be working with?
Children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. These children could be living in an emergency shelter, a foster home, a residential treatment center, or a relative's home. They range in age from newborn to teenager and in numbers from one child on a case to a large sibling group. Volunteers can choose an age range that they prefer to work with and also whether they'd prefer to work with a sibling group or only one child.  But, our goal is always to provide a CASA to every child who needs one.

Will I be safe?
CASA volunteers are never expected or encouraged to place themselves in dangerous situations.  The work of CASA is challenging, but you will always have the support of a CASA staff person.

How do I know what to recommend to the judge in a case?
CASA volunteers make recommendations based on the time they spend with the child, the review of records, interviews with the caseworker, the attorney for the child, the foster parents, teachers, relatives, parents, and the CASA supervisor.

Why would the judge listen to me?
The judge appoints CASA to represent the best interests of the child and make recommendations to the court.  Judges respect CASA volunteers and take their recommendations into account when making decisions.

Will my time make a difference?
Absolutely.  CASA volunteers offer children a consistent helping hand to guide them through the foster care system and a strong voice advocating on their behalf.  As a result, children represented by CASA are more likely to:

  • receive the services and resources they and their families need;
  • maintain stable placements while in foster care;
  • avoid the court system once their case is dismissed.

How does a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
A CASA does not provide legal representation in the courtroom.  A CASA takes into account what a child may want and speaks specifically to what is in the best interest of the child.

Are there any other agencies or groups that provide the same service?
No. There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child's best interests.   While attorneys are appointed to represent the child's legal interests and advocate for what the child wants, CASA's duty is to advocate for what the child needs.

What is the process to become a CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training and development program that consists of at least 30 hours of pre-service training, followed by 12 hours of yearly in-service training. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system: judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. CASA volunteers also learn effective advocacy techniques for children, and are educated about specific topics ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior.

After completion of the initial training, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the court. This gives them the legal authority to conduct research on the child's situation and submit reports to the court.

What does it mean to be a certified CASA program?
The 955 local and state member CASA programs adhere to formal standards set by National CASA and are required to pass a quality assurance review, which is administered every four years. This self-assessment is a course of action taken by local programs in order to evaluate and improve their operations.

Staff teams work together to answer 400 questions and gather 58 supporting documents for submission to National CASA. Professionals outside the CASA network determine overall compliance by conducting an independent review of the standards self-assessment instrument and supporting documentation. Programs must address any compliance concerns within six months in order to maintain CASA membership.

How is CASA funded?
Following is a breakdown on National CASA's funding sources.
The Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) currently provides 88% of National CASA's funding: 65% is used for local CASA program start-up and expansion, which is made available through the passage of grants; and 26% is used for outreach and local program training and technical assistance to state and local programs.
Charitable foundations, private contributions and national conference fees account for the other 12% of National CASA's funding.
Only 9.5% of all revenue supports National CASA general and administrative expenses; 90.5% is dedicated to program services including funding and training.

What is the cost to provide a CASA volunteer to one child for a year?
The median cost per child is $1,040, which covers training, staff support and other costs.