The Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, programs serving South Hampton Roads created When Your Child is in Foster Care: A Handbook for Parents and Guardians to provide an overview of the child welfare process. It is not intended to offer legal advice but to help adults better understand the legal process and resources available to them.

A grant from the Sue Cooke Winfrey Memorial Fund of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation made it possible.

To obtain a copy of the handbook, contact the CASA program in your city.

What is CASA?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in juvenile court. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect.

How effective have CASA programs been?

Preliminary findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children.

How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?

A CASA volunteer provides a judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help make a sound decision about the child’s future. Each home placement case is as unique as the child involved. The CASA volunteer must determine if it is in a child’s best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be placed in foster care, or be freed for permanent adoption. The CASA volunteer makes a recommendation on placement to the judge, and follows through on the case until it is permanently resolved.

How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?

To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The CASA volunteers also reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical, and caseworker reports; and other documents.


Can anyone volunteer to be a CASA?

CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens. No special or legal background is required. Volunteers are screened closely for objectivity, competence, and commitment. Volunteers possess the qualities of objectivity, communication skills, ability to work with a variety of people, ability to serve during the entire litigation of the case, and willingness and ability to learn. 

Volunteers undergo 35 hours of training before being appointed to a case.

How much time does it require?

Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends about 20 – 30 hours doing research and conducting interviews prior to the first court appearance. More complicated cases take longer. Once initiated into the system, volunteers work 10-15 hours a month.

How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?

The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings, and provides continuity for the child.