Who we are
What is CASA?
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. We are a nonprofit volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the Juvenile Court system. We recruit, train and supervise community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and private guardianship minors under the age of 21.
Who are the children CASA Kane County serves?
The children we serve come into abuse/neglect and probate courts (private guardianship) by no fault of their own. Last year we served over 600 children in Kane County. These children range in age from birth to 21. They have been removed from their homes by (DCFS) Department of Child and Family Services because of abuse or neglect. They leave most familiar things and people behind—home, family, friends, and school and find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are being made on their behalf. The majority of children are placed outside of their homes with relatives, in foster homes, shelters or residential facilities.
Why is CASA so important?
In court proceedings involving abused and neglected children, CASA Kane County provides an unbiased, child-focused point of view that is vital to help determine what situations will allow a child to thrive. In most cases, the children represented by CASA have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. A judge then must decide if a child can safely return home to his or her family or if a permanent home must be arranged to keep a child healthy and safe. When considering the actions of parents or child welfare agencies, it’s the child who has the most at stake and their needs can often be overlooked. The CASA/GAL volunteer and organization acts as the voice for each child to ensure their best interests are in the forefront.
What is the role of the National CASA Association and other organizations?
The National CASA Association is a nonprofit organization that represents and serves local CASA programs at different levels. All CASA programs must pass a comprehensive quality assessment in order to retain their membership status with the national organization. There are more than 1,000 programs throughout the United States and 34 programs within the State of Illinois. Illinois CASA and the National CASA Association are supportive of local programs and provide valuable information regarding marketing, training and public awareness.
Our CASA/GAL volunteer
What is a CASA/GAL volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a community volunteer who is recruited, trained and supervised by a CASA Kane County Advocate Supervisor and appointed by a Judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children during a dependency case. CASA/GAL volunteers spend an average of 10-15 hours a month advocating for a child and the average case is three years. The volunteer gathers information from those who know the child best and can and acts as the “eyes and ears” for the Judge during the child’s time in foster care.
Why is a CASA/GAL volunteer needed?
The CASA/GAL volunteer is often the only one constant person advocating for the minor(s) throughout the duration of the case, often holding the child’s history, and providing a caring and supportive person that the child can trust. This is why the committed service of a trained CASA volunteer makes a real difference—to the judge who can depend on CASA for a well-researched recommendation on the child’s needs and to the child who has a consistent adult to count on during such a difficult time in their lives.
How are CASA/GAL volunteers assigned to cases?
After the child(ren) are removed from their home due to unsafe living conditions, a shelter care hearing takes place within 48 hours. At this court hearing is when the Judge will appoint CASA Kane County as the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to the child(ren). CASA then collects as much information as possible to best match the child(ren) with the experiences, expertise and geographic location of each CASA/GAL volunteer.
What are the qualifications to become a CASA/GAL volunteer?
Prospective volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, attend a CASA Kane County general information meeting, complete an application, undergo background checks and fingerprinting, interviews with staff, and participate in a 45-hour initial training program. Once being sworn in by the Judge, each volunteer is expected to maintain at least 12 hours of continuing education annually, spend 8-15 hours per month on their case, visit with the child at least 1-2 times a month and be willing to make a commitment until the case closes. Volunteers must make case time a priority in order to provide quality advocacy.
How does a CASA/GAL volunteer differ from a social service caseworker?
Social service caseworkers are employed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or other contracted agencies. The CASA/GAL volunteer does not replace a social service caseworker, he/she provides a third party objective to the court. The CASA/GAL is assigned to one case at a time, giving them the time to spend learning about each child. In addition, social service caseworkers often have caseloads of 20 or more children.
How does a CASA/GAL volunteer differ from a Guardian ad Litem attorney?
Attorneys are charged with representing their client’s legal interests and following the wishes of their client. The CASA/GAL is a volunteer, not a paid attorney and their role is to ensure that the best interests of the child(ren) have a voice in court. As GAL, volunteers have the ability to introduce motions, evidence and elicit testimony through their court-appointed attorney. In addition, the CASA/GAL provides crucial background information that assists the Judge in making best interest decisions for children.
Measuring our success
What are the outcome measurement results?
CASA of Kane County has developed a number of measurements to ensure program stability. CASA Kane County is proud to be an accredited organization of the National CASA Association. The organization has child safety and well-being goals that reflect what the program needs to achieve for the children that they serve. CASA strives to achieve permanency goals as quickly as possible, while maintaining advocate retention.
What are the benefits to supporting CASA Kane County?
By helping to save a child from a life of abuse and neglect, we provide an alternative to the cycle of victims becoming abusers and passing on the heredity of violence. Abused and neglected children have an advocate who is committed to and solely focused on that child’s welfare. Children with CASA/GAL volunteers are not faced with “falling through the cracks” of the child welfare system. In addition to giving back to the community, you will receive a charitable tax deduction and know that your dollars are impacting a human life.
How effective is the CASA Kane County program?
Nearly 100% of our volunteers’ recommendations are accepted by the Judge. Children who suffer abuse and neglect are at-risk of mental illness, unemployment, homelessness or worse—engaging in criminal activity. A major factor in preventing these outcomes is the presence of a concerned and consistent adult in that child’s life. CASA Kane County is appointed to 100% of abuse and neglect cases in the Juvenile Court and 100% of children represented by a CASA/GAL last year did not experience a recurrence of abuse and neglect.
Why do judges listen to CASA volunteers?
CASA/GAL volunteers act as the child’s Guardian ad Litem, which means that they represent the child in litigation or in court proceedings. They don’t serve as a child’s legal guardian or custodian and they have no control over the child’s property but is an officer of the court. What the CASA volunteer does have is the authority to gather information, to bring witnesses who will testify about what’s best for the child involved and to make final recommendations to the Judge as an independent party in all court proceedings. When others may not have the facts and/or don’t have the time, it is the CASA who can provide critical and life changing information to ensure that our children get the chance to thrive and not lost in the overburdened system.
Funding & Donations
Why do we need funding?
CASA Kane County does not receive any state or federal funding and must raise its $3.1 million operating budget (including in-kind time spent by volunteers) from private donations, grants and fundraising initiatives. CASA Kane County’s cost per child is $2,500 each year, which covers all aspects of training, recruitment and supervision by 15 professional staff members that oversee nearly 300 guardian ad litem volunteers. In 2015, over 30,000 child service hours were submitted, which equates to a cost of 15 full time GAL attorneys at $125 an hour. There are also administrative, fundraising and operating expenses involved that like all businesses, we must maintain the transparency, compliance, and quality that our stakeholders, community and board of director’s expect.
How can I donate?
You can support CASA Kane County through individual and corporate donations, event sponsorships, corporate matching gift program, leaving a legacy or by hosting a fundraising event. Your contribution will help support CASA/GAL volunteers in their efforts to help our most vulnerable children. Visit our ways to give page for more details.