- Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
- Become a CASA Volunteer
- Local CASA History
- Fact Sheet
- Volunteer Job Description
- How to Become a Volunteer
- Hear from local CASAS and Foster Youth
History of the Local Program
It shouldn't hurt to be a child, yet each year in Tippecanoe County, hundreds of abused and neglected children are thrust into the juvenile court system. The court must decide the fate of these children. The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained citizen appointed by a judge, who can help assure that placement and services are truly in the best interest of the child. However, this was not always the case.
Recognizing the importance of giving a voice to abused and neglected children, a dedicated group of individuals worked diligently alongside Judge Margaret Hand to lay plans for a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program that would serve Tippecanoe County. The vision to ensure that the best interests of abused and neglected children are represented in court actualized in 1985, when Guardian Ad Litem attorneys were appointed to 8 wardship cases.
In September of 1986, a grant from the Gannett Foundation enabled five individuals to receive training in Indianapolis to prepare them to work with attorneys for the best interests of abused and neglected children. In January of 1987, Tippecanoe County Government began funding the program, making Tippecanoe County one of the first 15 CASA programs in the State of Indiana. A part-time Coordinator was hired, and the first internal volunteer training program resulted in 20 volunteers being sworn in on July 22, 1987. By August of 1990, the program had a new name, Tippecanoe CASA, and 61 cases had been assigned to volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates. In 1997, the first Victims of Crime Act grant was awarded, providing for operating expenses, including staff salaries and supplies. In 2002, Tippecanoe CASA hired a full-time Executive Director, and became an official County Department, a classification that secured the necessary infrastructure to ensure the continuation of advocacy work on behalf of Tippecanoe County’s most vulnerable population.
In 2005, Indiana became the first State to be awarded national certification by the National CASA Association, and in 2020, the Indiana State Office of CASA/GAL celebrated its 30th year of operation. Support for CASA programs in Indiana has grown significantly in recent years, and thanks to the work of The Indiana State Office of CASA/GAL, 86 of 92 counties in Indiana now have certified CASA/GAL volunteer programs.
Strong State and local support has enabled Tippecanoe CASA to steadily build capacity to serve all children. CASA Staff and volunteers are dedicated to effective and impactful advocacy, and in addition to the initial 30-hour training, each advocate undergoes a minimum of 12 hours of training each year in order to stay abreast of best-practices in the child advocacy field. In addition to providing quality, evidence-based advocacy, Tippecanoe CASA’s vision is to fully eliminate the list of children waiting to be assigned a CASA. Consider being a voice for a child: apply to become a CASA volunteer today.
What is a CASA volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of an abused or neglected child in court. CASA volunteers are able to focus on the child and their needs while they are in the system. (I.C. 31-34-10-3)
What is the CASA volunteer’s role?
A CASA volunteer provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer gets to know the child and the nuances of their case, and then makes fact-based determinations regarding what is in the child’s best interest. The CASA volunteer makes recommendations regarding necessary services and placement options to the judge and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.
How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?
To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the Department of Child Services Family Case Manager, the child, parents, family members, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteer reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical, case manager reports, and other pertinent documents.
How does a CASA volunteer differ from a Department of Child Services Family Case Manager (DCS FCM)?
Case Managers are employed by the state government. They often work on a large number of cases at a time and are sometimes unable to conduct a comprehensive ongoing investigation of each case. The CASA volunteer has only 1-2 cases at a time and is able to devote their attention and focus to the child for whom they are advocating. The CASA volunteer does not replace the Department of Child Services Case Manager, but rather works alongside them to ensure that the case moves forward in a timely manner. The CASA is an independent appointee of the court that is knowledgeable about community resources and is charged with thoroughly examining their appointed child’s case and making recommendations to the court.
How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation; that is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists the attorney in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they tell the court what the child’s wishes are, and then they exercise their own independent judgement to determine whether those wishes are actually in the best interest of the child. A CASA Volunteer represents the best interest of the children they are appointed to advocate for, which is not always the same as what the child wants.
Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of backgrounds; there are more than 93,000 CASA volunteers nationally. Tippecanoe County CASA promotes and celebrates diversity, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin or citizenship status, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, economic status, age, disability, military or veteran status, or any other basis protected by Federal, State, or Local law.
Do lawyers and judges support CASA?
Yes. Juvenile and Family Court Judges implement the CASA program in their courtrooms and appoint volunteers. The American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Judges and Delinquency Prevention have endorsed CASA.
Does the federal government support CASA?
CASA is a priority project of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The office encourages the establishment of new CASA programs, assists established CASA programs, and provides partial funding for the National CASA Association.
How effective have CASA programs been?
All children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect deserve to have their best interests represented in court. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) have a profound positive impact on the lives of these children, giving them a voice and hope for the future. A child with a CASA is more likely to find a safe, permanent home, and spends far less time in foster care (up to 8 months less on average) than a child who does not have CASA representation. Children with CASAs get more help while in the child welfare system, as more services are ordered for them. They do better in school, are more likely to pass courses and are less likely to be expelled. (Gershun & Terrebonne, 2018).
How much time does it require?
All CASA volunteers go through an initial 30-hour comprehensive training series. Upon the completion of the training and being sworn in as an officer of the court, the CASA is appointed to a case, and assigned a Volunteer Coordinator who will support their advocacy work.
Although each case is different, a CASA volunteer usually spends about 10 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work on their cases about 10-15 hours per month. Complex cases may require more time.
How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?
The CASA 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 in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child. Tippecanoe CASA requires volunteers to commit to at least 15 months.
Are there other agencies or groups that provide the same service?
There are other pro bono child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only national program using carefully screened and trained community volunteers who are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interests.
What children are assigned CASA volunteers?
Children who are victims of abuse and neglect who have become wards of the court are assigned CASA volunteers. The Juvenile Judge may also choose to appoint a CASA to an Informal Adjustment, Juvenile Delinquency case or a Collaborative Care case.
What is the role of the National CASA Association?
The National CASA Association is a non-profit organization that provides training, technical assistance, research, media and public awareness services to members. National CASA works with state and local CASA and Guardian Ad Litem programs to promote and support quality volunteer advocacy to help assure each child a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.
How is CASA funded?
Tippecanoe County CASA’s program is funded through County funds, State funds, private funds, and grants. The National CASA Association is funded through a combination of private grants, federal funds (US Justice Department), memberships and private contributions.
Does National CASA have a web site?
Yes, for more information visit National CASA.
How do I contact the local CASA office?
Tippecanoe County CASA
County Courthouse, 301 Main Street
Lafayette, IN 47901 Phone: 765/423-9109 FAX: 765/423-9710
CASA Volunteer Job Description
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a concerned, trained volunteer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of an abused or neglected child. The CASA is responsible for investigating the facts of the case, recommending a course of action, and monitoring progress towards established goals while the case is under jurisdiction of the court.
1. 21 years of age or older.
2. Have a concern and interest in children, their rights and special needs.
3. Have time to devote to training sessions, investigation and follow up of assigned cases.
4. Have the ability to work with children, adults, and professionals using tact, concern, and basic human relation skills.
5. Have the ability to maintain confidentiality, remain objective, be responsible and honor commitments.
6. Have the ability to communicate verbally and in writing.
7. Have earned a high school diploma or equivalent.
1. Complete a written application and participate in personal interviews with the CASA program staff.
2. Complete 100% of pre-service training sessions.
3. Commit to a minimum of 15 months of service as a CASA volunteer in Tippecanoe County.
4. Sign a pledge of confidentiality and commitment.
5. Give consent for and pass a criminal record check, Child Protective Service check and Bureau of Motor Vehicles record check.
6. Attend in-service education, totaling at least 12 hours per year, commencing within 6 months of start of volunteer duties.
7. Have transportation and provide proof of valid Indiana driver’s license and car insurance which includes liability coverage.
8. Maintain a complete up to date file in the Optima case management system on each case, including appointments, interviews and info gathered about the child and the child’s circumstances.
9. Meet all deadlines for reports and maintain regular contact with supervisory staff, meeting as necessary and/or requested.
10. Sign CASA Volunteer Insurance Disclaimer.
11. Return all case file information to the program once a case has been dismissed.
1. When appointed to a case, interview the child, family members, foster family, teachers, social workers, and other interested parties to determine the facts. ¬ Record all findings as the case progresses and confer with the assigned volunteer coordinator on a regular basis.
2. Act as an objective, independent fact finder and prepare written reports stating findings and recommendations regarding specific services for the child and parents. Monitor services and court orders ensuring that they are rendered in a timely manner and that a permanent plan has been created for the child.
3. Seek cooperative solutions by acting as a facilitator among parties as needed, interfacing with mental health, educational, and other community systems to assure that the child’s needs in these areas are met.
4. Appear at all hearings to monitor proceedings and testify when necessary.
5. Have regular and sufficient contact with the child to ensure in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact-based, specific recommendations to the court.
6. Remain involved and monitor the case until the case is closed.
7. At all times advocate for the child’s best interests.
At Tippecanoe County CASA, a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and encouragement is at the core of who we are and maintaining such a culture is central to our mission. In our advocacy, every voice is equal and has the right to be heard. We know unique perspectives generate better ideas to solve complex problems. We strive to create a place where all life and cultures can flourish together and every child thrives free of abuse or neglect.
Tippecanoe County CASA promotes and celebrates diversity and seeks to guarantee human right are exercised without discrimination of any kind including those based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status such as disability, age, marital and family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, health status, place of residence, economic, social situation, veteran status, or any other basis protected by Federal, State, or Local law.
Upon receipt, a staff member will call to set up a screening interview.
Accepted applicants will go through a training course to learn about the court and child welfare systems. Training averages about 30 hours, plus an opportunity for court observation time.