Court Appointed Special Advocates Office of the Superior Court
The mission of the Court Appointed Special Advocates Office of Los Angeles is to serve the needs of abused, neglected and abandoned children in the Dependency Court system by providing the best possible information to the judges making decisions about these children's futures.
To achieve this, the Court Appointed Special Advocates Office recruits, trains, supervises and supports community volunteers who investigate the circumstances of the child, facilitate the provision of services, monitor compliance with the orders of the court, and advocate in the court and in the community for the best interests of the child.
How You Can Make A Difference
Each month in Los Angeles County, nearly 700 hurt, frightened and confused children enter the Dependency Court system. These are children who have endured severe abuse, neglect or abandonment. A Dependency Court Judge must make key decisions about each child's life, i.e., where the child will live, whom the child may see, and what medical and educational services should be provided for the child. With over 36,000 children under court jurisdiction, this is an awesome task!
The Court Appointed Special Advocates Office was established in 1978 to serve the needs of these dependent children and to provide the best possible information to the judges making decisions about their lives. To achieve its mission, the Court Appointed Special Advocates Office recruits, screens, trains and supports community volunteers to serve as COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE (CASA) volunteers. CASAs are appointed by Dependency Court judges to conduct independent investigations of children's circumstances in the foster care system and report their findings to the court. Volunteers advocate for what they believe to be in the child's best interests and are responsible for:
Investigating and reporting the circumstances of the child to the court
- Facilitating the delivery of services ordered by the court for the child
- Monitoring compliance with other orders of the court
- Advocating in the court and the community for the best interests of the child
CASA volunteers maintain regular visits with the children they serve, getting to know the child as an individual, not just a case. Most often, a child's CASA is the only person in the courtroom who has visited the child consistently and really understands the needs of the child.
CASA of Los Angeles was one of the first CASA programs, starting out in 1978 under the leadership of Judge Peter Gianinni. The program, then known as the Child Advocates Office was under the guidance of presiding Judge of Juvenile Court, Richard “Skip” Byrne and supervising Judge Paul Boland. In 1983, FRIENDS OF CHILD ADVOCATES now CASA of Los Angeles was formed to help abused and neglected children by funding the work of the Child Advocates Office.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are appointed by dependency court judges to investigate the circumstances of children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. The information that they provide to the court assists judges in making more informed decisions about the children who appear before them.
Anyone over the age of 21 who is committed to helping children may apply to become a CASA volunteer. No special educational background is required, but volunteers must have good communication skills, common sense, and good problem solving skills. CASA volunteers need to have access to a car and be able to show proof of state-required automobile liability coverage. Volunteers must also undergo a security clearance and be fingerprinted.
There are a few restrictions to becoming a CASA volunteer. A CASA cannot be:
A current foster parent
- An employee of a group home or residential treatment center for foster children
- In the process of adopting a child through the dependency system
- Involved in a dependency court matter
- Complete the 36 hours CASA Training Program.
- Commit 5-6 hours per week, on average, to case activities on behalf of a child.
- Maintain regular contact with the child (visit at least once a month).
- Gather information about a child's circumstances, evaluate the facts of the case independently, and provide recommendations to the court by means of written reports.
- Communicate sensitively and objectively with children, social workers, foster care providers, therapists, teachers, attorneys, parents or other family members who may be involved with a case.
- Maintain and submit monthly documentation of time spent, and contacts made on a case.
- Attend court hearings.
- Complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. The Child Advocates Office provides many educational opportunities including monthly inservice training.
- Fulfill a two-year commitment to the CASA Program.
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