This is the second post in a series of three from SCAN’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program, written by Lindsay Warner Ferrer. Lindsay is a CASA Case Supervisor and was previously a trained volunteer with the program.

AR_FemaleCasaThe Alexandria/Arlington Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program provides trained volunteers appointed by the Court to serve as a direct voice for children in the juvenile court system. Volunteers conduct interviews with the children, families, and professionals involved in the case, monitor compliance with the Court orders, and attend Court hearings where they advocate for the best interest of the child.

While it’s difficult to evaluate a CASA volunteer’s impact, many local and national studies have tried to capture some of the important ways CASA volunteers help court-involved children. One large study using CASA program data and a national data set found that:

  • Children with a CASA volunteer received significantly more services than children without a CASA volunteer, particularly mental health services and medical services.
  • Parents of children with a CASA volunteer received significantly more services than parents of children without a CASA volunteer.
  • In over 80 percent of cases, all or almost all of CASA volunteers’ recommendations to the Judge were accepted.

Another study, a large survey of judges in areas with CASA programs, found that:

  • 97 percent of judges agree that children and families are better served because of CASA volunteer involvement.
  • 97 percent agree than the personal knowledge that CASA volunteers have about children is beneficial to the judges’ decision-making.
  • Judges particularly value volunteers’ ability to consider the best interests of children and monitor the case.

More rigorous studies, such as those that randomly assign children to a CASA volunteer or a control condition, would be invaluable to help better isolate and quantify the impact of CASA volunteers.

While CASA volunteers love their role and want to help children, we all wish that the CASA role wasn’t necessary. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on a great way to prevent abuse and neglect from happening in the first place – home visiting programs for new parents.

– Lindsay

CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of many of these children in court. In Alexandria and Arlington, 77 volunteers served 177 children in 2012. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how CASA volunteers can make a difference in the lives of abuse and neglected children.

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