• What is a CASA volunteer?

    A CASA volunteer is a court appointed, trained and committed adult who ensures that each child’s individual needs remain a priority in an overburdened child welfare system. They get to know the child 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. In Travis County, CASA volunteers serve as the guardian ad litem in the case.

  • What is a guardian ad litem?

    A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an official representative in a Child Protective Services case. The GAL appointment entitles CASA volunteers to access information about the child's situation from medical, educational, and professional providers, and requires CASA volunteers to report to the court in the child's best interest, placing CASA on equal footing with other child advocates on the case.

  • Who are the children CASA serves?

    In 2017, approximately 2,450 Austin area children were involved with CPS due to alleged abuse or neglect. These children have often been removed from everything familiar - home, family, friends and school - and find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms where life-altering decisions are made on their behalf.

    CASA serves children from birth to 18 (and sometimes after 18 if they decide to stay in care, which they have the option to do until they’re 21). 

    2017 Child Demographics

    Race and ethnicity of children served:

    • Hispanic/Latino = 51%
    • Black/African-American = 25%
    • White = 16%
    • Bi-Racial/Multi-Racial = 6%
    • Asian/Asian-American = 1%
    • Other/Not Specified = 1%
     

    Ages and gender of children served:

    • 0-4 = 27%
    • 5-13 = 52%
    • 14-17 = 17%
    • 18 and over = 4%
    • 51% male; 49% female 

    Learn about disproportionality, or the overrepresentation of children of color within the system, in our blog posts, What You Should Know About Disproportionality and Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System: An interview with Tanya Rollins.

  • Where do the children live?

    The majority of the children are placed outside of their home with relatives, or in foster homes, shelters or residential facilities, though some children do still live with their parents. Children are often placed outside of Travis County. They can live across Texas or out of the state, and placements can change throughout the case. Minimum in-person visit requirements vary depending on where children are placed:

    • Once a month for children placed within 60 miles of the Texas State Capitol
    • Once every 3 months for children placed between 60 and 180 miles from the Texas State Capitol
    • Once every 6 months for children placed 181 miles or more from the Texas State Capitol
     

    Children do not live with their CASA volunteers, nor do they visit their volunteers’ homes.

    Learn more about traveling as a CASA volunteer in our blog, A Different Kind of Summer Travel.

  • Does a CASA volunteer work with the child's biological family?

    When it is safe and in a child's best interest, CASA's primary goal on a case is to help children reunify with their families. This means that it is important to get to know and work with a child's biological parents, as well as their extended family. 

    Learn more about working with families in our blog post, Seeing the Whole Picture by Working with a Child’s Family.

    Learn more about reunification with parents in our blog series, Reunifying Families.

  • Is there a typical CASA volunteer?

    CASA volunteers come from every walk of life. They range in age from 21 to 80, represent various educational and ethnic backgrounds, and are students, retirees, teachers, firefighters, realtors and many other diverse members of our community. There are over 700 active CASA volunteers annually in Travis County. Aside from their CASA volunteer responsibility, half of our volunteers have full-time jobs. They all share a commitment to improving children's lives, a willingness to learn and an open mind towards life experiences different from their own.

    Learn more about volunteering with CASA when you have a full-time job or other big time commitments in our blog post, Can I volunteer with CASA while having a full-time job?

    Get to know some of our volunteers on our website, and check out our Become a CASA Volunteer video to meet other people who are advocating for kids in need.

  • How does a CASA volunteer investigate a case?

    To prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer gets to know and builds a trusting relationship with a child or family of children by seeing them in person at least once a month. They talk to parents, teachers, doctors, therapists, caregivers and other important adults in the child’s life who are knowledgeable about the child's history and progress. The CASA volunteer has a court order that allows them to review all records pertaining to the child – school, medical, caseworker reports and other documents. 

    This is not an investigation of the abuse or neglect that started the case. Investigators with CPS have already concluded that investigation. 

    Learn more about the support systems and training components put in place to make sure our volunteers feel safe and prepared in all situations in our blog post, Building Safety and Security for Kids and Volunteers.

  • What is CASA’s training program like?

    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) completed over a 5-week cycle. You must finish all training and observation within the 5 weeks and all background checks must be completed and cleared in order to be assigned to a case.

    We also ask that volunteers complete 12 hours of Continuing Education each year, including trainings hosted by CASA and within the community; relevant books, articles, podcasts or films; webinars and more.

  • What is the time commitment?

    As a CASA volunteer, you commit to spending 15-20 hours per month for the duration of one specific case (17 months on average). Volunteering is a serious time commitment, but the scheduling of your activities is mostly flexible. A volunteer’s commitment to seeing a case through until it closes ensures a consistent, reliable adult in a child’s life and a better chance for the child to reach a safe, permanent home.

    Learn more about the commitment in our blog post, A Month in the Life of a CASA Volunteer.

  • How many cases on average does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?

    Typically each CASA volunteer carries one case at a time which allows them to focus on the needs of one child or family of children.

  • How does CASA support volunteers?

    CASA volunteers are paired with a staff professional, called a Child Advocacy Specialist (CAS), who supports and guides them every step of the way. This includes preparing for and attending case-related hearings and meetings and guiding the volunteer to pertinent resources specific to each case. When a CAS is not available for a meeting or hearing, another CASA staff member will attend to support the volunteer.

    Learn about speaking up in court and how a supervisor helps prepare volunteers for that presentation in our blog post, A Voice that Trembles is Better than No Voice at All.

  • What are the requirements for becoming a CASA volunteer?

    Volunteers 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 CASA volunteer. Applicants are required to complete an application, attend a pre-training interview, and participate in CASA training. 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.  

  • How does a CASA volunteer differ from CPS caseworkers?

    CASA is a separate nonprofit organization that exists outside of the Child Protective Services state system. CASA volunteers are appointed by the court in the guardian ad litem role to focus specifically on the best interest of the child(ren) with an unbiased community perspective. A CASA volunteer thoroughly examines a child's case, has knowledge of community resources, and can offer outside-the-box recommendations independent of state policy limitations and restrictions. CASA volunteers advocate for one child or family of children at a time, while a CPS caseworker has a full caseload of children they are working with.

  • How does a CASA volunteer differ from attorneys?

    The CASA volunteer represents the best interest of the child and funnels information to the attorney and judge. An attorney is charged with representing their client's legal interests and with following the wishes of their client. CASA is appointed as the child's guardian ad litem and is responsible for making recommendations about what things would be best for the child. The CASA volunteer does not file legal paperwork with the court. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists the court in making decisions.

  • How does a CASA volunteer differ from a foster parent?

    A foster parent opens their home temporarily to a child or group of children in need of placement. CASA volunteers will gather information on how a child is doing in their foster home, and will interact with foster parents to gather information from them on the child’s wellbeing. Children do not live with their CASA volunteers, nor do they visit their volunteers’ homes.

  • Do CASA volunteers stay in contact with children after the case closes?

    Once a case is over and children have safely reached permanency, the need for CASA ends, and CASA requires that volunteers end their contact with the children and family after a case closes. If a CASA volunteer remains in a child's life, they become a reminder and an anchor to a time of instability and confusion for children, so it is important to have a healthy transition out of their lives at this time. 

    In certain occasions, a teen who ages out of care at age 18 may choose to keep their CASA volunteer in their lives as a supportive adult connection, but no longer in the role of advocate or guardian ad litem.

    Learn about how CASA volunteers wrap up the case and say goodbye to kids in our blog post, Healthy Goodbyes: Why We Leave.

  • Still not sure if you want to become a CASA volunteer?

CASA of Travis County’s commitment to equal opportunity is an important part of our core values. In order to provide the best quality advocacy for children in our community, we believe that we must be responsive to the needs of everyone who may provide, receive or be affected by our services. To that end, all policies, practices and recommendations are administered without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, gender identity and gender expression, marital status, physical abilities or national origin.