What children does CASA help?
- TLC CASA takes the cases of children who are in foster care in our 15 service area counties: Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Pulaski, Telfair, Treutlen, Toombs, Twiggs, Washington, and Wheeler.
What exactly does a CASA Volunteer do?
- CASA volunteers are assigned to cases, and they typically stay with them through the life of the case. While on the case, volunteers visit the child involved at least once a month, contact other parties involved for research (parents, foster parents, relatives, therapists, teachers, etc), and attend court when the child’s case is being reviewed to make recommendations for the child’s best interest.
Is being a CASA volunteer the same as being a mentor?
- CASA is not a mentoring program. However, like a mentoring program, CASA volunteers do develop a relationship with the child through frequent contact. The primary role of the CASA volunteer is to gather information about the child, write unbiased reports to the court, and attend court hearings.
Do I have to do this all on my own?/ What kind of support do CASA Volunteers receive?
- It is important to know that you will never be alone working on a case. Each volunteer is assigned a Volunteer Supervisor staff member to help guide them along in the process. They are there as a support whenever you need them, just in case you run into questions or have concerns. They assist in creating and reviewing court reports before they are sent to the judge and other parties and attend all court hearings with you. They can also serve in your place if you are ever unable to make court.
How will I be assigned a case?
- Case assignments are based on the volunteer’s interview and training responses. We understand that some people prefer working with certain ages of children or certain numbers of children. Our cases vary greatly in ages and sibling group sizes. Your Volunteer Coordinator will discuss your level of comfort with the case before making an official assignment.
How is CASA different from DFCS?
- The Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) is the state agency assigned to help families and monitor children in foster care. Children are assigned caseworkers, but those caseworkers often have large complicated caseloads. These caseworkers are all also assigned to the entire family, where CASA Volunteers are assigned only to the children. While DFCS’s efforts are focused on reunification, CASA is specifically looking out for the child’s best interest. Many times this is reunification, but CASA has the flexibility and time (since they’re typically only assigned one case) to dig deep and find what is in the child’s best interest.
Volunteer Requirements & Time Commitment
What are the requirements for being a volunteer?
- Being a CASA volunteer requires no special degrees or legal experience. It does, however, require special people over age of 21 who have:
- A concern for children;
- A genuine desire to help;
- The ability to remain objective;
- The maturity to deal with emotional situations;
- The commitment to complete a 30-hour minimum training course;
- Sensitivity to people who are different from themselves;
- Access to transportation and a flexible schedule;
- A willingness to devote at least one year to a child’s case
How much training does it take to become a volunteer?
- CASA Volunteers undergo 30 hours of training to learn about the child welfare system and prepare them for situations they might encounter. In Addition to the training, all TLC CASA Volunteers are required to observe court for at least 10 hours to get a feel for the proceedings.
How much time will I need to commit to being a volunteer?
- After you have completed your training, the time commitment is very flexible. We require that volunteers make contact with their children at least once a month. These visits are done on your own time, as you schedule them with the child’s placement. They can (and often will) take place on weekends or in evenings to accommodate school and work schedules of both parties. These visits last however long you and the child deem fit.
Can I work full-time and still be a volunteer?
- Absolutely! Many of our volunteers work full-time. We are flexible with our training schedule and can work with you after your work hours or on weekends. After you are trained, the schedule of when you meet the child is up to you! As far as court goes, you will often get dates well in advance for hearings, sometimes up to 6 months before the scheduled date. This gives our full-time working volunteers plenty of time to work their schedules around court. If work conflicting with attending court is the only thing holding you back from volunteering, give us a call at 912-245-9551 and we’d be happy to talk with you about additional options or accommodations we can make!
Can I still volunteer if I travel a lot?
- Absolutely! After your training, your time commitment to CASA is built around your schedule. If you have a trip or a visit with family coming up, we just ask that you make sure you contact the child(ren) in your case before you leave. Child contacts must be made once a month, so if you’re frequently gone for long lengths of time, being a CASA Volunteer might not be a good fit… but if it’s only 1-3 weeks at a time, you should be fine!
How often and how long does a CASA volunteer visit with a child?
- Volunteers are required to meet the child(ren) in their case once a month, though many of out volunteers elect to do so more often. The visit should be long enough for you to get a true judgement of how the child is doing and adjusting in their placement. Our volunteers often play games, color, or do other activities with the kids. As a general rule 1-3 hours is usually what we recommend blocking out for an in-person visit, but as long as you and the child are enjoying yourselves, we encourage you to stay and bond!
Are the kids with their parents or in a foster home?
- All children you see will be living outside the home from which the allegations were made against the family. This could mean that they are living with foster parents, relatives, or in a group home. However, depending on when and where you visit the children, you might be able to see them interact with their parents. Many of our children have supervised visits at one of our centers with their parents. While we don’t encourage volunteers to make all of their visits during these times (we want to give parents and children time to bond without outside interference), it is helpful to see how the parents and child(ren) interact. If you can squeeze in a visit or two during one of these supervised visit times, we highly encourage it!
Will I come into contact with the biological parents?
- While you may not come into contact with them physically, we do ask that volunteers make contact with parents. This can be by phone, video chat, letters, or in person. Talking to the parents is an important fact-finding time in the life of any case. A CASA Volunteer’s purpose is to get all sides of a story to determine a child’s best interest… talking to the parents is a big part of that!
Can I take the kids on an outing?
- CASA Volunteers are not allowed to transport children, so unfortunately, you cannot take them anywhere. You can however do fun things with the kids. If the child’s placement has time to meet you at a local park for a visit, awesome! If not, we encourage volunteers to take or plan a developmentally-appropriate activity to do with the child… get as creative as you’d like! CASA Volunteers are visiting to build rapport and bonds with children so they can trust them with information on their well-being. Playing and having fun builds trust with a child much quicker than interviewing them does!
Will I ever be in danger?
- We would never ask our volunteers to go into a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation. If you ever feel uncomfortable with something, we encourage volunteers to report it to their Volunteer Supervisor immediately. 99% of the time while being a CASA Volunteer, you will be with children. We don’t want the kids in danger, and we certainly don’t want you in any either!
How much notice do we get for court dates for our cases?
- It depends on where you are in the case and what type of hearing it is. Generally, you will have 1-6 months advance warning. If for some reason you cannot make court, your Volunteer Supervisor will give your report in your place.
Does the judge listen to the CASA Volunteer’s recommendations?
- Absolutely! If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a need for us to come! We are fortunate to have great relationships with the judges in our areas who see the benefit of CASA. In addition to submitting a written report to all parties before court, our judges will most every hearing call on CASA to ensure there is nothing further the volunteer would like to share.