What does CASA do?
CASA of Hancock County recruits, trains and supports volunteers who advocate for children who have been abused or neglected to ensure that their best interest is preserved in court and in the community. Our CASA volunteers ensure that the child’s needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system.
What does a CASA volunteer do?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate or “CASA” volunteer is trained and sworn in by the Youth Court Judge to represent the best interest of a child(ren) in the court system. Volunteers spend an average of 8-10 hours a month advocating for the child(ren). Volunteers develop rapport with the child through monthly in-person contact as well as collecting information from the child’s family, caretakers, teachers and anyone else involved in the child’s life.
How does CASA get assigned to children?
The Youth Court Judge appoints a trained, capable CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations that are in the best interest of the child(ren). Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases.
How much time does it take to be a CASA volunteer?
All volunteers must complete a 30-hour pre-service training. The time commitment varies depending upon the stage of the case.
Do I need to make a long-term commitment to the program?
The vast majority of cases last one to two years, and the amount of time spent on a case per month typically ranges between 8-10 hours. Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide quality advocacy.
Do I need to have any special skills or meet any educational requirements?
No special background or education is required to become a CASA volunteer. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Potential volunteers are required to complete background screening and the required CASA Pre Service Training curriculum. This training provides the necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
What are the qualifications to become a CASA volunteer?
Applicants must be 21 years of age. CASA volunteers should be passionate about the safety of children and have a willingness to speak up for a child’s best interest.
What sort of support will I receive?
You will be supported every step of the way. You will be assigned a volunteer coordinator who will be there to assist you and provide you with opportunities for continuing education.
How many children does CASA serve?
In 2018, 320 of the 416 Hancock County child victims of abuse of neglect were served by the CASA Program through the assignment of 107 CASA advocates. The only thing stopping CASA from serving more children is the need for additional volunteers.
What is involved in becoming a CASA volunteer?
CASA volunteers range in age from 21-83 and they all share the same common concern and willingness to speak up about the safety of children. Volunteers are diverse culturally as well as professionally. They are teachers, nurses, realtors, accountants, engineers and stay-at-home moms all invested in giving back to their community.
Volunteers attend an info session, an interview, a comprehensive background check and a 30-hour training inclusive of court observation. Once trained, volunteers are sworn-in by the Youth Court Judge and are assigned their first case. Most volunteers spend 8-10 hours a month advocating for their child(ren).
Prospective volunteers must be at least 21 years of age and must pass a criminal background check, child protective services check, sex offender registry check, and provide adequate references.
How is CASA funded?
As a small non-profit organization, we rely heavily on the support of the community. The program holds three fundraisers annually. (Krewe of CASA Mardi Gras Gala, 5k Superhero Race, & a Poker Run) Currently, the program receives an annual allocation from the Hancock County Board of Supervisors, the City of Diamondhead, and the City of Waveland. CASA is a United Way funded agency and we receive Victims of Crime Act federal funds through the Office of Interpersonal Violence.
Meet Heather Smith, Pro Bono Legal Counsel for CASA of Hancock County. Heather’s deep roots in the community, combined with her personal experience with CASA in the courtroom, have fueled her passion to support this local CASA program.
Advocate Cheryl Bloom shares about her beginnings with CASA, the impact of her volunteer work, and the importance of her CASA supervisor. Help us continue this work and assign more advocates to children in need by clicking the link here and becoming a CASA Anchors monthly supporter.
Recruit, train, and support a diverse network of Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers to provide abused and neglected children in our community with quality advocacy in the Hancock County court system and to secure them a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.