What is CASA?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. The position of a CASA is to advocate for the best interest of children who have been abused and/or neglected while supporting Tulsa CASAs mission that every child deserves a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.
What are the responsibilities of a CASA?
- Visit your CASA child frequently so you can accurately assess what is in their best interest
- Speak with all parties involved in the case and monitor the implementation of case plans and court orders
- Make an independent evaluation of what is in the child’s best interest, both immediately and in the long
- Create a court report including observations, concerns, and recommendations
- Attend all court hearings
Who are the children CASA serves?
CASA serves children, 0-18, who are on the juvenile “deprived” docket in the Tulsa County Juvenile District Court. A child is assigned to this docket when a petition based on DHS confirmation of a report of abuse or neglect is filed with the court. Safety concerns have been identified within their natural family, and for their protection they are often removed from their home and into a foster care placement. In most cases, the goal is to reunify the child with their natural family, after their primary caregivers complete the court orders that have been put in place and the Department of Human Services re-assesses the home as being a safe and nurturing environment.
Where do the children live?
It depends on their case. Many of our children are placed in traditional foster care homes, with relatives, in group homes/shelters/residential facilities, and some children are in the home with their natural parents. This happens after trial reunification has begun, or if they are receiving in-home intervention services in an attempt to prevent them from entering the foster care system, while still addressing any issues the Department of Human Services may identify as non-immediate safety concerns. Many of the children are placed outside of Tulsa County, anywhere in the state of Oklahoma. Placements can also change at any time in the duration of the Child Welfare case.
Does a volunteer work with the child’s biological family?
Yes. Volunteers are expected and encouraged to work with the child’s natural family when the case plan is family reunification. CASA’s primary goal is for the child to return to their home, and it is important to form a relationship with the child’s parents and other members of their extended or immediate family. This happens through conducting in-person visits with family members and keeping in contact regularly via phone, email, or other forms of communication. 65% of Tulsa CASA cases end in reunification.
Is there a “typical” volunteer advocate?
Not at all! Our volunteers come from many different walks of life. Volunteers represent every age category, various racial and ethnic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, professional backgrounds, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some volunteers have their own history with child welfare, either personally or professionally, and other volunteers have no prior experience. Our volunteers are the teachers in your child’s school, the cashier at your supermarket, your family physician, your friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
What will I learn about in CASA pre-service training?
Topics covered include the law, child protection system, and the courts, developing cultural competence, understanding families and children, communication as a CASA, gathering information, and reporting and monitoring the case. You will learn about specific societal issues such as Adverse Childhood Experiences, Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, Poverty, Supporting LGBTQ Youth, Resilience, Mental Health, Educational Advocacy, and Trauma. You will complete case simulations in class to help you apply what you are learning to real-life scenarios. Our Training & Outreach Manager will answer any questions you have along the way and ensure you are fully prepared to begin this key chapter in your life.
How many cases on average does a volunteer carry at a time?
Typically, CASA volunteers serve on just one case, dedicating all of their volunteer time to helping one child or one set of siblings in a family.
What is the time commitment for a volunteer?
On average, volunteers spend 10-15 hours per month working on their case. We ask that volunteers make a 1 year commitment to their case. CASAs are likely the only consistent and dependable person the child knows. Our hope is you will stay on the case from the time you are appointed, until the child reaches permanency through reunification with their natural parents or an adoption with foster parents, relatives, or other adults in their life.
How does Tulsa CASA support volunteers?
We have a dedicated and experienced staff to ensure you have the tools needed to be successful. Every Tulsa CASA volunteer is assigned to an Advocate Manager; a paid person on our staff who is there solely to support the advocates they oversee. Advocate Managers go to court alongside volunteers, help them write court reports, guide them in the right direction and answer any questions, eliminate barriers that are in the way, and provide emotional support to the volunteer as they work their case. Our office has an open-door policy and our entire staff is committed to helping volunteers succeed and providing support in any way we are able.
What are the requirements to become a volunteer advocate?
You are NOT required to have any prior experience with the judicial process or child welfare. All volunteers must be at least 21 years old. You cannot have any felony convictions, and are required to pass a criminal background check, a sex offender registry check, and a child welfare history background check. Each volunteer receives 30 hours of training before being sworn-in as an officer of the court by a Tulsa County Juvenile Judge. Volunteers will also complete 3 hours of court observation before being assigned to a case.
How does CASA differ from DHS caseworkers?
CASA and DHS work very closely on juvenile deprived cases, although our roles differ greatly. CASA volunteers are able to make independent, unbiased, objective recommendations to the court free of any state limitations and restrictions. Volunteers are encouraged to think outside of the box and bring their individual perspective to the case, drawing on their own life experiences and knowledge. DHS Caseworkers visit the children once a month, whereas CASA volunteers visit the children once a week – resulting in 52 visits a year on average. The primary concern of the Department of Human Services is the child’s safety, placement, visitation and services. The CASA volunteer is the only person in the courtroom who is solely focused on what is in the child’s best interest.
Do CASA volunteers stay in contact with families after the case closes?
Once the case closes, we ask volunteers to transition away from the family. Often times, we can be a reminder of a very traumatic and confusing time in that family’s life and many families do not wish to continue the CASA relationship. However, if the family you are working with wants to stay in contact then we encourage volunteers to continue supporting the family and child(ren).