There is nothing more important than the well-being of a child. When children have to enter the foster care system, CASA of Travis County is there to provide an unbiased recommendation to the court.
CASA accepts all new cases for children aged one and up, and always needs volunteers to serve as advocates. “For every child in need, CASA of Travis County envisions a trained volunteer advocate, a safe home, and a promising future” (CASA of Travis County). To continue their progress this year, CASA’s goal is to serve 2,200 children with 900 active volunteers in 2020. Continue reading to learn how you can help.
What Is CASA of Travis County?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. When a child enters the foster care system, the court automatically assigns him or her to a CASA advocate, all of whom are volunteers.
After the child is assigned, the advocate gets to know the child and the child’s family in order to be fully informed of their particular situation. This enables the advocate to paint a full picture of what is best for the child, assisting the judge in making decisions regarding the child reuniting with his or her family or whether other options should be explored.
Role of the CASA Advocate
Advocates play a vital role at CASA and are trained to champion for children who have been victims of abuse or neglect. They advocate for these children in courts, schools, and their community.
While volunteering is a big commitment, it is flexible and rewarding. The time commitment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (a CASA) is typically 15 to 20 hours per month. These hours involve reviewing cases, meeting with families and children, emailing involved parties, and attending court sessions.
Each advocate is assigned one child to work with for an average of 17 months. The most important aspect of the advocate role is to stay unbiased. The advocate will take the time to get to know the child’s family, understand what brought the child into the foster care system, and determine whether the child can be reunited with his or her family.
CASA has two additional roles that require different time commitments: Early Family Engagement (EFE) and Family Finding (FF). You can learn more about these volunteer positions on the CASA website.
All volunteers are provided with a wonderful support system. If an advocate needs another opinion or backup for a court appearance, CASA steps in. CASA volunteers are able to impact a child’s life for the better, and they describe their time volunteering as a life-changing experience that makes our community a better place.
How to Volunteer as an Advocate
If you are interested in volunteering with CASA as an advocate, you can apply online through the CASA of Travis County website and will be contacted by a CASA representative. Once your application is approved, you will undergo an intensive interview process, followed by a background check.
No special education or experience is necessary in order to be a CASA volunteer. You simply must be at least 21 years of age and not be a current foster parent. You also must be able to pass extensive reference, Child Protective Services, sex offender registry and criminal background checks.
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How Else Can I Help?
Volunteering as a CASA advocate is not always possible for everyone. However, there are other ways to help out and volunteer. For example, every year CASA organizes CASA Superhero Run to benefit the organization. Over 3,500 people participate, and CASA needs volunteers each year to facilitate this major event.
Many more CASA volunteers are needed this year to meet the organization’s yearly goals and to serve as many children as possible. In 2020, they are looking to recruit 450 new volunteers and raise $6.16 million for the organization. For more information on volunteering and to donate to CASA of Travis County, visit the nonprofit’s website.
@theAustinot would like to know:
Would you consider being a CASA advocate?
The original version of this article was published May 23, 2018.