9th Judicial Circuit Court
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
"Sworn to Act in a Child's Best Interest"
What are CASA volunteers?
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are community volunteers who are sworn officers of the Family Division of Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. These highly-trained volunteers assist the court by providing determined advocacy for neglected and abused children in both the courtroom and the community. The information and support provided by CASAs are instrumental in the court's receiving complete, independent information.
Why are CASAs needed?
Nearly 2,000 children in Kalamazoo County are referred to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services each year due to allegations of neglect and/or abuse.
There are many individuals involved in the legal proceedings, representing differing philosophies and fulfilling a variety of roles that, by definition, may be adversarial. The Circuit Court believes that children in neglect proceedings should have at least one person who continuously advocates for the child's best interest until all legal matters are resolved. Frequently, only the CASA remains a constant from beginning to end.
A CASA objectively assesses all persons, places and things affecting a child's life and presents an independent recommendation to the court.
What does a CASA do?
The CASA volunteer handles many concerns, including such questions as:
- Should a child be removed from his or her own home?
- If a child is removed, how does he/she relate to the new home situation, a new school and visitation with parents?
- What is being done to return the child home as soon as possible?
- Are court orders being followed by all parties within an appropriate time period?
- Are actual changes being made within the family structure or is compliance with court orders only a means to an end?
The assessment and recommendations made by CASA volunteers in answering these and other questions may make an enormous difference in the life of a neglected child.
- Must be 21 years of age
- Must complete the 35-hour training course
- Must commit to a minimum of 18 months of service
- Must have own transportation
- Must attend monthly meetings
Who is CASA?
YOU!! And other citizens from the community who care enough about the family and social treatment of children to get actively involved as an advocate. Common sense, life and job experience, and an extremely thorough training program are a solid basis for strong volunteer advocacy. CASAs most often work independently, but may also partner with another CASA. Volunteers are well supported through monthly group meetings, assistance from active volunteers, and a responsive court staff who are on 24-hour call. The main ingredient for all advocates is a strong desire to help protect the best interests of neglected children.
Expectations of the CASA
- Demonstrate professional conduct
- Ask questions whenever there is need or doubt
- Maintain confidentiality of all case matters
- Follow a case until completion
- File reports on a timely basis and attend hearings
- Remain objective
How to get involved
For further information, please call the Circuit Court Family Division at 269-385-6078 for the Director of Volunteer Services. An individual interview or presentation to a group or service club will easily be facilitated.