Colorado CASA is seeking 2,020 new volunteers in 2020
February 18, 2020
The Colorado Sun recently reported that only about one-third of children or teens in Colorado who have experienced child abuse and neglect have a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer. However, if there were more volunteers, more cases would have a CASA.
“People frequently ask foster parents questions about foster care and how they can help children. Fostering isn’t for everyone, but being a CASA volunteer is another way to get involved in a child’s journey and change a child’s story,” said Jenny Bender, the Executive Director of Colorado CASA.
Last year Colorado’s nearly 2,000 CASA volunteers served 4,800 children and teens. However, 2019 also saw 13,000 child welfare cases, which could have benefited from a CASA volunteer. Doubling the number of volunteers serving 18 CASA programs throughout the state would help to fill this gap. While 18 of the 22 judicial districts in Colorado have CASA programs, Bender hopes to help expand the program to the four remaining rural districts over the next five years.
Like a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), a legal professional appointed to each case, a CASA’s role is to make sure a child’s voice and best interests are represented in court. Unlike a GAL, who may have as many as 60 cases at one time or a caseworker, who can have up to 30 cases at one time, a CASA is an unpaid volunteer who is assigned one case at a time. Bender explains that CASAs often have the most contact with the children visiting anywhere from twice a month to once a week and often keep in close communication with GALs and caseworkers. In addition to meeting with the children, CASAs also have access to case files, interview everyone involved in the case and then present their findings in a written report for the court.
In many cases, especially in those involving older youth, a CASA becomes a mentor and may stay in contact with appointed children for years after the case is resolved if the child chooses. CASAs frequently have lifelong bonds with the young people they serve offering support and guidance for youth as they are entering adulthood.
When caring for a child who has a CASA volunteer, foster parents are encouraged to reach out to the CASA to help share information with them. CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check, complete at least 37 hours of training including court observation and commit to the program for at least one year. To learn more about CASA in Colorado or to volunteer visit coloradocasa.org.