Volunteer

Imagine the experience of children who are removed from their home, their family, their siblings, and everything they know and care about. They find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are made on their behalf.

Fortunately, children in Travis County can have court-appointed, trained and committed volunteer advocates who ensure that each child’s individual needs remain a priority in an overburdened child welfare system.

In Travis County, our volunteers serve as the guardian ad litem (GAL), an official representative in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case entitled to access information about the child's situation and required to make reports to the court in the child's best interest.

CASA is not your typical volunteer experience

But that’s okay… we’re not looking for typical volunteers. Are you ready to be one of them?

Impact

When we say CASA isn't your typical volunteer role, we mean it. Volunteering with CASA is next level, and it’s one of the most impactful and empowering experiences you can have.

For children who’ve been abused or neglected, CASA means having a home instead of feeling lost, and being a priority instead of feeling invisible.

  • When safe to do so, it is in children’s best interest to stay connected to their families. Of 763 children’s cases closed with the help of CASA last year, 63% were reunified with their parents and 16% were adopted by or live permanently with relatives.
  • 84% of children whose cases closed last year were in permanent homes. 
  • A study by Texas Appleseed, "Improving the Lives of Children in Long-Term Foster Care," reports that: "If a child has a CASA, the CASA usually is the only person who truly knows the child and knows how the child is really doing."
  • Judges value CASA’s recommendations, which help them make informed decisions in the child’s best interest. Out of nearly 2,000 recommendations made by CASA in 2018, 70% of recommendations were ordered by the judge, and another 24% were negotiated and agreed upon before the hearing.

For volunteers, CASA is a life-changing experience that makes our community a better place.

How You Can Help

CASA has 3 unique roles for you to advocate for children in our community:

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers get to know the child(ren) while also gathering information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, therapists, caregivers, and anyone else involved in the child’s life in order to make independent and informed recommendations to help the judge decide what’s best for the child. They are a consistent adult presence for a child or family of children throughout their entire CPS case.

Specific Tasks
  • Spend quality time with the child or children you’re appointed to 
  • Communicate regularly with the child(ren)’s parents, relatives, placement, teachers, doctors, therapists, caregivers and anyone else involved in the child’s life
  • Participate in case meetings and review case files
  • Gather and document information on your case
  • Formulate recommendations on what’s in the best interest of the children
  • Submit a court report and present your recommendations to the judge in the courtroom.

Time Commitment*
15–20 hrs/month for the duration of case (avg 17 mos)

Training Requirements
39 hours of initial training & courtroom observation

Continuing Ed Requirements
12 hrs/year

Early Family Engagement (EFE) Volunteers

Early Family Engagement (EFE) Volunteers focus on ensuring that children remain connected to their families from the earliest stage of a CPS case. This short-term, fast-paced role conducts initial visits and assessments with children, their caregivers, their parents, and other relatives, to represent CASA at the first case hearing.

Specific Tasks
  • Meet in person with the child or children prior to the initial hearing
  • Interview the parents prior to the initial hearing
  • Research family connections
  • Contact and interview relatives
  • Appear at initial hearing to advocate for the child(ren)’s best interest

Time Commitment*
10–12 hrs/case over a 7–10 day period, 6 cases per year

Training Requirements
39 hours + 2.5 hr EFE training

Continuing Ed Requirements
12 hrs/year

Family Finding (FF) Volunteers

Family Finding (FF) Volunteers provide specialized support to a CASA volunteer in finding and engaging relatives, by conducting data-mining, reviewing case files, doing online research to locate disconnected relatives, and contacting relatives in an attempt to engage or re-engage them in the lives of children.

Specific Tasks
  • Review case files and other records with a focus on identifying relatives and fictive kin for children
  • Research family connections using online tools such as Google, social media and news sources
  • Contact relatives and fictive kin to build family engagement and support
  • Build and maintain a genogram for the family using information gathered
  • Develop recommendations for the court regarding family connections and engagement

Time Commitment*
5 hrs/week, Cases range from 2 weeks–5 months

Training Requirements
39 hours + 2.5 hr FF training

Continuing Ed Requirements
12 hrs/year

*Volunteering is a serious time commitment, but the scheduling of your activities is mostly flexible. A volunteer’s commitment to completing their case ensures a consistent, reliable adult in a child’s life, stronger connections for a child to their family, and a better chance for the child to reach a safe, permanent home.

Who Can Help

Our volunteer advocates come from every walk of life and share a commitment to improving children’s lives, a willingness to learn and an open mind towards life experiences different from their own. No special education, experience or background is needed.

Get to know some of our not so typical volunteers ›

You must be at least 21 years of age and be able to pass extensive reference, Child Protective Services, sex offender registry and criminal background checks before becoming a volunteer advocate. Volunteers should have effective oral and written communication skills and comfort with computer technology including email and word processing.

You may not be a current foster parent or be in the process of adopting a child from Child Protective Services. If an attorney, you may not concurrently be appointed to any cases involving Child Protective Services in Travis County.

Training & Support

We will provide you with all the training and support you need to serve as an effective advocate. The CASA Volunteer Training program consists of 8 in-person 3.5-hour classes, an hour of pre-work for each class and 3 hours of courtroom observation (approximately 39 hours total). You must finish all training and observation by the final deadline and all background checks must be completed and cleared in order to be assigned to a case. Family Finding and Early Family Engagement volunteers must complete an additional 2.5 hour training for their roles.

Once assigned a case, you will be paired with a staff professional who will support and guide you every step of the way.

You will be required to complete 12 hours of Continuing Education each year that you are an active volunteer. We offer a variety of trainings and activities to help volunteers complete this requirement.

Learn even more about volunteering with CASA

see our Frequently Asked Questions

Next Steps

If you are looking for a truly unique and impactful volunteer opportunity in the Austin area and you care about the best interest of children, CASA is right for you. Last year, 900 children in Austin still needed a volunteer to advocate for their best interest. Our vision is to provide a trained volunteer advocate, a safe home and a promising future for every child who needs us. We hope you decide to join our community of not-so-typical volunteers.

If you’re interested in taking your volunteering to the next level, please complete our inquiry form:

*This helps us ensure we are being inclusive in our recruitment efforts.

Not interested in volunteering at this time?

Check out other ways you can support CASA and kids in our community.

Know someone who would make a great volunteer advocate?

Share their info with us via our Referral form.

Not from Travis County?

Check out surrounding area CASA programs:

Visit Texas CASA or National CASA for state and national directories.