Every year, more than 260 abused and neglected children in Boone and Callaway Counties are placed in foster care because they are unable to live safely at home. Once the children in these circumstances become part of the legal system, dozens of individuals enter their lives such as: police, foster parents, therapists, social workers, judges, lawyers, and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers. CASA volunteers watch over and advocate for these abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home. CASA volunteers stay with each case they are assigned until it is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.
Since the founding of Heart of Missouri CASA, they have trained 196 CASA volunteers and have served 447 children. A CASA volunteer, serving as a court-appointed advocate, is trained to promote and pursue the best interest of an abused or neglected child in court, and prevents the child from getting lost in the system by being sensitive to the child’s needs and presenting these needs in court. The role of the CASA volunteer in a child abuse or neglect case is to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case, make an independent evaluation with recommendations regarding actions the CASA believes are in the child’s best interest, both short and long term, and to monitor the case until a permanent placement is achieved.
Qualifications to be a CASA volunteer:
- 21 years of age or older;
- Give consent to a routine criminal background check;
- Have completed a high school education or equivalent;
- Are willing to commit to an average of 10 hours per month for a minimum of two years, including two visits per month with each child;
- Act as an independent investigator and represent the best interest of the child;
- Write and submit monthly activity reports and written reports to the court.
Training to be a CASA volunteer:
CASA volunteers are required to attend 30 hours of pre-service training, in addition to following guidelines established by Heart of Missouri CASA and the National CASA association. Heart of Missouri CASAS conducts approximately 3 pre-service trainings per year. Following the initial training, CASA volunteers are expected to complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. To get more information regarding the training required and the dates please visit http://heartofmissouricasa.com/become-a-casa-volunteer/training.aspx
Skills and Abilities of CASA volunteers:
- To keep all client and court information confidential;
- To communicate effectively both orally and in writing;
- To respect and relate to people from various backgrounds in a variety of settings;
- To maintain objectivity;
- To gather and record factual information accurately;
- To participate as a team member in order to collaboratively advocate for children and families;
- Be available for daytime meetings and court hearings;
- To transport self to a variety of locations.
If you would like to be a CASA volunteer or would like more information on this program, please visit http://heartofmissouricasa.com.