What is CASA for Children of Bergen County?

CASA for Children of Bergen County recruits, trains and supervises volunteers to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children in foster care. CASA is part of a nationwide organization of Court Appointed Special Advocates with over 900 chapters in 50 states, and 70,000 volunteers.

What is a CASA?

A CASA is a court appointed volunteer to be an independent voice in court for an abused or neglected child.

Is there a typical CASA volunteer?

CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, representing a variety of ethnic, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Approximately two-thirds of our CASAs are employed full-time, some are college students, some are stay-at-home parents, and some are retired. What they have in common is the belief that children deserve a safe permanent home. CASAs must be at least 21 years of age and pass a background check. They also must have a valid driver’s license, reliable transportation and the ability to be both compassionate and objective.

How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?

To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history.  The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical, and caseworker reports; and other documents.

How much time does being a CASA volunteer take?

Each case is different in the number of hours per month.  A CASA volunteer usually spends 10 – 30 hours a month doing research and conducting interviews in the beginning of a case.  After the initial period, volunteers can spend anywhere from 3 to 20 hours a month depending on the circumstances of their case.  More time is spent on a case when it is first assigned, as this is the more intensive fact-finding stage.

How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved in a case?

Volunteers must commit one year to the program.  The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved.  One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure and provides continuity for a child.

How do the legal system and child welfare system view CASA?

CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of U.S. Department of Justice. CASA is described as ‘the eyes and ears of the judge’, and frequently acts as ‘the arms and legs’ of an overworked child welfare system.

Which children are assigned CASAs?

Children who have been abused and neglected and have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care are assigned a CASA volunteer. Our goal is to provide a CASA to every child who needs one.

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.

Where does CASA receive its financial support?

We rely on grants and donations from foundations, corporations and individuals.

What training does a CASA receive?

CASA for Children of Bergen County conducts a minimum of two training sessions per year. The 30 hour training session provides CASAs with an overview of courtroom procedure and court report writing. CASA are educated about specific topics ranging from symptoms and effects of abuse and neglect to early childhood development and cultural diversity.

If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact the CASA office at 201-336-7520 or lauren@bergencasa.org