What is the CASA Program of the Rhode Island Family Court?

CASA is a statewide program of the Rhode Island Family Court dedicated to helping abused and neglected children find their way through the Rhode Island child welfare and family court systems to safe, loving, permanent homes.  Because of the dedication of well-trained CASA volunteers, these children have an advocate to speak for their “best interests” in court.

What is a CASA volunteer?

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen appointed by the Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Family Court to represent the best interests of a child victim in cases of abuse and/or neglect.

What is the CASA volunteer’s role?

A CASA’s role in abuse and/or neglect proceedings is to present the court with a unique “child-centered” perspective regarding what is in the best interests of the child.  To prepare their recommendations, CASA volunteers talk with the child, parents, family members, foster families, social workers and all other persons involved in the child’s life.  Most importantly, CASA volunteers visit with the child on a regular basis in order to gain an understanding of the child’s situation.

How long does a CASA volunteer remain involved with a case?

CASA volunteers are asked to make a commitment to each case they assume: usually 12-18 months.  This is a necessary commitment due to the dynamics of abuse and neglect cases and the need for stability in the lives of child victims.  Often the CASA volunteer remains the only consistent figure for the child throughout the courts proceedings.

How many children does CASA RI serve?

At this time there are 3,000 children who could use the services of a CASA volunteer.

What training does a CASA volunteer receive?

Each CASA volunteer must complete 30 hours of comprehensive pre-service training.  The curriculum is designed to inform volunteers about courtroom procedures, the dynamics of abuse and neglect, cultural differences, Rhode Island state laws and effective communication techniques.  Professionals from social service agencies, lawyers and judges and seasoned volunteers participate with the CASA staff in sharing their expertise during this training.

Is there a “typical” CASA volunteer?

CASA volunteers come from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds.  Two requirements are that the person must be 21 years of age and a United States citizen.  There are over 150 CASA volunteers in professions that include retirees, homemakers, business owners, college students, doctors, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, advertising agency executives.

How much time does volunteering require?

CASA volunteers spend approximately 8-10 hours per month on each case.  However, cases that are more complex may require more time spent researching and conducting interviews with involved parties.

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

The average caseload is one to two.

How does a CASA research a case?

To prepare for their recommendations to the court, CASA volunteers talk regularly with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history.  The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child’s schooling, medical records and case worker reports.

How effective is the CASA program?

Judges throughout Rhode Island have noted the value of the information that CASA brings to the proceedings and are appreciative of the unique perspective presented by CASA volunteers.  In addition, national studies show that a child who has been assigned a CASA volunteer spends less time in court and less time in foster care than those who do not have a CASA volunteer.