CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, which is a community volunteer who is trained and sworn in as an officer of the court and advocates for children in foster care.
Volunteers form a relationship with a foster child and advocate for his/her best interests. They speak with everyone in that child’s life- parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers, and others. This information is used to write court reports and inform the judge of the child’s needs and wishes.
A request for a CASA advocate can be made by social workers, parents, foster parents, therapists, and a foster youth- to the Dependency Court judge. The judge will then make the decision whether or not to issue the court order that appoints the CASA to the child.
We can serve children from birth to 21 years old. Our program currently focuses on children over the age of 5, with a few exceptions. Here is our current age breakdown:
0 – 5 years old: 3%
6 – 11 years old: 40%
12 – 17 years old: 49%
18+ years old: 8%
Our volunteers come from various ages and backgrounds. They range from college student, to professionals, to retirees. They are concerned members of the community who undergo thorough background checks, have completed training, and are committed to being a consistent, caring adult in the life of a foster child. The majority of our volunteers are females, but we are always looking for more men to join the team. We also continue to have a great need for bilingual Spanish-English speaking volunteers.
Depending on the complexity of the case and the experience level of the CASA, an advocate can support up to 3 children. In situations with siblings, CASAs may have more than one child or will have a co-CASA who works beside them with the other sibling(s).
A CASA can expect to spend approximately 12-16 hours a month on his/her child’s case. This time estimate includes everything and anything tied to the child including actual time spent with the child, drive time, note taking time, phone calls, emails, texts, time talking with advocate supervisors, etc.
We ask for a commitment of 18 months, as we strive to create consistency in a child’s life.
In addition to the written application, our process is comprehensive to assure the best fit for the volunteer, organization, and the foster youth. This includes a series of interviews, reference checks, background checks, a five-week training period, and ongoing evaluations during the year. Please see our Application Process page for more details.
This volunteer opportunity is not always a match for everyone who is interested. We want to make certain that the volunteer is ready for the long-term commitment and emotional responsibility that CASAs are expected to assume. Occasionally, we find that becoming a CASA is an overwhelming role for some volunteers, and that is OKAY. For the safety and protection of both the volunteers and foster youth, we have to turn down applicants that are not yet ready to become an advocate.
The 35-hour training covers topics relevant to the child welfare system, understanding the developmental needs of children and families, educational support, personal boundaries, cultural diversity, and how to serve in the capacity of a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Yes! Our organization welcomes non-advocate volunteers that assist us in office projects, holiday programs, fundraising events, and special classes or activities for the children.
Please contact the office at (831) 455-6800 if you’re interested in other volunteer opportunities.
Child Protective Services removes children from their parents when the child’s safety and well-being are in danger. When the case comes before the Juvenile Dependency Court, the child is moved to a safe place. During separation, services are provided by Monterey County to help the family reunite.
Each year more than 600,000 children are placed in foster care nationally, with about 60,000 in California. This strains the social services and court systems to the point where they are unable to adequately protect the rights and provide for the needs of each child.
CASAs are compassionate and responsible adults who support abused or neglected foster children. With the help of a CASA, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system and that much more likely to find a permanent home. A CASA’s focus includes permanency, education, medical and mental health needs, and healthy lifestyle activities.
Locally, only about 35% of foster youth have their own CASA. We have on average a waitlist of over 90 children for whom we don’t have an advocate. We are dedicated to ensuring that every child in Monterey County’s child welfare system has a qualified volunteer that will advocate for their best interests. To succeed in our mission, we need about double the amount of CASA volunteers that we have now. CASA of Monterey County is in high need of men, bi-lingual Latino volunteers, as over 70% of our children are of Hispanic/Latino origin.
Anyone can! Typically, reports originate from a teacher, doctor, friend, neighbor, or relative. By law, teachers and doctors, as well as CASAs, are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse.
Re-entry rates are relatively low in Monterey County; an average of only 7% of the children that reunify re-enter the system in less than one year, compared to 11.9% statewide. Children with a CASA are half as likely to reenter the system.
We monitor the following outcomes amongst others:
-Appropriateness of placement of the child
-Timeliness of reunification or achievement of permanency
-How long a child remains in the system
We ensure court orders and children’s rights are upheld in relationship to:
-Visits with parents
-Services being provided
-Extracurricular activities and opportunities
According to a study of the 47 students for whom we hold educational rights to, 85% of foster children improve their attendance at school, 77% improve their grades, and 84% of high school students improve the number of credits towards graduation.
Permanency is both a process and a result. It involves the child as much as possible. At a minimum, it’s a permanent connection with at least one committed adult who provides a safe, stable and secure relationship. Ideally, this occurs through parental reunification, legal adoption, or guardianship.
We derive revenue from private and public foundations, usually through grants. There is modest government funding. Other major sources include individual donors, civic organizations, fundraising events, and community events where CASA is a beneficiary. In addition, there is a planned giving and bequest program. Please learn more at our Ways to Give page!