Key information you need to know about becoming a CASA volunteer advocate.
What is a CASA Volunteer?
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer advocates in court for a victimized child in an abuse and/or neglect case. The CASA volunteer serves as a Guardian ad Litem (“guardian of the case”). It is his or her job to get to know the child or sibling group they are assigned to work with and make recommendations to the court about what is in the child’s best interests.
Why is the CASA program important?
No other program in New Hampshire provides one-on-one advocacy services for abused and neglected children. Based on in-depth knowledge of the child and his or her circumstances, a CASA volunteer advocate provides insights to help a judge make decisions based on the best interests of the child. The CASA volunteer makes sure that the child has access to the support and services he or she needs and, finally, that the child is placed in a safe home, or another permanent plan is put into place.
Judges across New Hampshire request CASA advocates because they bring better outcomes for victimized children. Hear from the Honorable Susan B. Carbon about the importance of CASA’s in her hearings courtroom.
Who can be a CASA volunteer?
Adults of all ages and from all walks of life can volunteer. All it takes is a commitment to help change a child’s future and some flexibility in your schedule.
What do CASA volunteers do?
The CASA volunteer has two main roles:
To stay in touch with the child and important people in the child’s life. The volunteer communicates with the child, parents, foster parents, educators, and other people that shape the child’s world. Their goal is to understand what the child needs and what the best outcome of the case would be for the child.
To attend court proceedings and write court reports. CASA volunteers make recommendations in the child’s best interest directly to the court. They make sure that the judge understands what the child needs and wants.
How much time does volunteering require?
CASAs spend an average of 10 to 15 hours per month on each case. The first two to three months of a case tend to be more time-intensive because volunteers are making contacts, visiting the child and other important people, and attending hearings.
How available do I have to be a CASA?
Many CASA volunteers work full-time, have busy family lives and take vacations whenever they want! With a little planning, you can integrate this work into an active life. Court hearings are scheduled 30-90 days in advance, and most other activities can be done at the volunteer’s discretion.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
CASA volunteers are asked to make a commitment to stay with each case they assume until the case closes — typically, around 24 months. Sometimes cases close sooner; sometimes longer. It’s impossible to predict at the onset how long a case will be active.
What training and support do volunteers receive?
Each CASA volunteer must complete a 40-hour pre-service training. The curriculum instructs volunteers on how to be an effective advocate, how courtroom procedure works, how to write a court report and other aspects of advocacy work. Guest speakers include professionals from social service agencies, lawyers and judges.
After training, CASA volunteers are assigned a program manager. The job of the program manager is to answer questions, keep volunteers on track and help volunteers write court reports. New volunteers are also assigned a peer coordinator who will help mentor and guide new advocates through the process.
There are numerous additional resources following the initial training, including ongoing specialized training, workshops, and support groups to help keep CASAs well-informed. View our training schedule to find a training near you.
Watch the video below to learn more about CASA’s support and training from active volunteer, Cotton Cleveland.
How has the COVID pandemic affected volunteering?
CASA and New Hampshire family courts have established creative ways to help victimized children from a safe distance during the COVID pandemic. We have moved our 40-hours of pre-service training to a virtual, interactive classroom so you may complete your training from the comfort of your home. Once you are assigned your first case, the following measures are in place to help you advocate safely:
Support: Socially distanced meetings, video conferences or telephonic meetings with your Program Manager
Check-Ins: Video calls or distanced visits with the child and the important adults in his or her life
Court: Telephonic or video conference hearings to discuss the child’s best interests with a judge, DCYF and/or the child’s family
If you have additional questions or concerns about volunteering during the pandemic, please email us.
Will this work break my heart?
This work can be heart-wrenching, but volunteers frequently remark that the rewards of making a difference in a child’s life outweigh the emotional challenges the work can present.
Meet CASA volunteer Heather Sweeney who discusses her experience with the emotional aspects of being a CASA.
Will I get reimbursed for mileage or other expenses?
Many volunteers track their mileage and other expenses (phone calls, postage) and use it as a tax write-off at year end. As a nonprofit organization, CASA is not in a position to reimburse expenses.
How do I apply to become a CASA/GAL?
The fastest way is to apply online. Your application will be emailed to us when you click “submit.”
Are there other ways to help CASA besides being a CASA?
Yes! Being a CASA advocate is not possible for everyone. We rely on donations, corporate underwriting, attendance at fundraisers — like our CASA Cares Gala — and purchases of greeting cards to help make our programs possible. We also need office and special event volunteers and are always looking for help spreading the word about the great work CASA does for New Hampshire’s children! Follow us on social media and share our posts or email us if you would be willing to send postcards or distribute literature in your community!
Where can I find more information on becoming a CASA volunteer?
Subscribe to our mailing list for potential future volunteers
Volunteering for CASA is incredibly rewarding, but we know that it can take some time before you are ready to make the commitment. If you want to learn more but aren’t ready to apply to become a volunteer advocate just yet, please join our mailing list. We will send periodic emails with answers to frequently asked questions, volunteer profiles and other information so you will be ready to join us as a CASA volunteer advocate when the time is right for you.