CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Ottawa County is a program that recruits, screens, and trains volunteer community members to serve as the voice of abused and neglected children in court proceedings. After the volunteers are appointed by a judge, they meet weekly with the children and talk with teachers, counselors, foster parents, child care providers, and anyone else who comes into contact with the child.
From all of these sources the volunteers gather information as to what is in the child's best interest, as well as what the child would like to have happen in the following areas: where they will live, who they will live with, how often they see their birth parents. The reports are submitted to the court when the hearings take place every 91 days, and the judges use the recommendations in the report when they make their rulings.
The CASA volunteer not only advocates for each child's safety, permanency and well-being but is often the only consistent person in the child's life during this traumatic time.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do Court Appointed Special Advocates do?
CASA volunteers advocate for safe, permanent homes for each child they serve in a timely manner. As officers of the court they are appointed by the Judge to conduct an independent investigation.
The CASA volunteer maintains weekly contact with the child, (or in most cases a sibling group of children) to establish a relationship with the child(ren) to better understand the minor's needs; assess and make recommendations to the Court concerning the best interests of the child(ren).
The CASA volunteer gathers independent information from attorneys, social workers, parents, school personnel and other's who are involved with the child. From the information gathered, the CASA will submit a written report to the court.
CASA volunteers appear in court for review hearings.
CASA volunteers monitor the child's case as it goes through the court system to help ensure that the child's needs are being met and advocate for all necessary services.
CASA volunteers provide a consistent source of support for the child during the court process.
What is required of being a CASA Volunteer?
A CASA volunteer must be at least 21 years old and accepted into the CASA program. A 30 hour training program must be completed.
A CASA volunteer must have the ability to work with children, family members and professionals using concern, tact and basic human relations skills.
A CASA volunteer must respect and be able to relate to people with different values and from various backgrounds (economic, educational, and cultural) in a variety of settings.
A CASA volunteer must not have any current involvement with juvenile or dependency court.
A CASA volunteer must have the ability to gather and accurately record factual information, and maintain objectivity.
What is the time commitment required?
CASA volunteers must commit to serve one case for eighteen months or until a permanent plan for the child(ren) has been implemented.
CASA volunteers spend an average of 12-15 hours each month on their cases.
You must attend a 30-hour training program prior to court certification.
You are expected to attend monthly case support and training sessions with other CASA volunteers.
You are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education per year.
Upon completing the necessary training, provided by Sheryl Brink, the CASA Coordinator of Ottawa County, Court Appointed Special Advocates are sworn in as officers of the court by Judge Mark Feyen.
A Swearing-in involves a ceremony where friends and family, court personnel, the CASA Coordinator, the Executive Director of Pathways and the Judge gather together to celebrate the accomplishment of the individuals completing all the requirements of their training, much like a graduation of sorts. The Judge Speaks to the CASA’s about the importance of the new role and the value it has to the court, then has them take an oath of office, and declares them officers of the court. The CASA Coordinator then presents them with their certificates, their ID badge and business cards. Afterwards a reception is held to celebrate the new Volunteers.
December 21, 2012 Swearing-in Ceremony
Picture coming soon!
July, 2012 Swearing-in Ceremony
April 26, 2012 CASA Volunteer Appreciation Dinner
10 Volunteers and their spouses attended along with the Honorable Judge Engle and CASA/Pathways staff and Friends of CASA Board Members. Each volunteer was recognized for their service and Friends of CASA presented each volunteer with an appreciation gift.