CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates is a nationwide program that trains community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court. Appointed by the Court, a CASA volunteer represents the child's interests in the court process, ensuring the court has all the information needed to make the best decision for the child and ensuring their right to a safe and secure home.
CASA volunteers must undergo extensive screening and training prior to their service. Once appointed by the Court, CASA's become an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court. Unlike attorneys and social workers, however, the CASA volunteer speaks exclusively for the child's best interests. In Washoe County, the CASA program has helped hundreds of children find their way to a safe home. A division of Family Court, CASA volunteers are appointed in a wide range of Family Court cases including abuse and neglect proceedings, cases involving domestic abuse, contested child custody battles and disputes over parental access and visitation.
Over the course of a CASA' involvement, volunteers work closely with the child and family to bring an independent assessment of a child's needs to the court. Volunteers spend several hours a week working directly with the child, talking to teachers, counselors and social workers and writing reports to the court. CASA's also attend court sessions involving the child. The focus of the CASA's investigation is to identify the child(ren)'s needs, not to gather information for criminal prosecution. Then volunteers make recommendations to the judge regarding what, in their judgment, is in the child's best interest.
CASA has served over 3400 children in Washoe County since its inception. By providing the most complete up-to-date information on a case, a well trained CASA becomes a partner with the court and other child serving agencies in providing effective advocacy for children who need it the most.