The Sonoma County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program is committed to serving abused and neglected children coming before the Juvenile Court for protection and rehabilitation services.
The purpose of the CASA program is to humanize the complex child welfare system for the child victim by providing a trained volunteer who will act as a consistent role model, advocate, and potential life connection.
The goal of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program is to prevent abused and neglected children from becoming lost in the Juvenile Dependency system. The objective of matching a CASA Volunteer, a trained advocate from the community is to ensure that the child’s best interest is represented.
The volunteer has three essential roles as an advocate:
• to be the child’s voice in court, representing their needs, concerns, and best interests;
• to complement the Juvenile Court/Child Welfare system by researching and assessing the circumstances of each case and reporting their recommendations and findings;
• to continue to support the child and the progress of the case as it moves through the system;
The program receives referrals directly from the Juvenile Court. CASAs are matched to the child and provide approximately 10-12 hours of service per month on casework. After reviewing the case information and court reports the volunteer consults with clinical and program staff to develop a case plan. Prior to each court hearing, the volunteer prepares a court report containing their evaluations and recommendations for the child. The Juvenile Court judge reads and considers the CASA report in addition to the social worker’s report prior to making his decision. Volunteers attend all Juvenile Court hearings that affect the rights and welfare of the child. Each court appointed volunteer is carefully screened and receives 27-32 hours of expert training in skills necessary to fulfill his or her responsibilities.
CASA volunteers are in a unique position because they provide information not usually available to the Juvenile Court. Because of the growing number of cases filed in Juvenile Court and dwindling resources to adequately monitor the cases, judges find the CASA volunteers to be positive complements to providing the information necessary to make better-informed decisions.
In addition to our services to abused and neglected children, the CASA program works to provide community education and awareness concerning the issues of child abuse, neglect and child welfare policy. We are also committed to working toward public policies that promote child abuse prevention and addressing reforms in the Juvenile Dependency/Foster Care system.