what they are
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate who is screened and trained and then appointed by the court. It matters to children when someone stands up for them in court, especially in dependent neglect trials when parents are not necessarily a source of stability or support.
what they provide
Abused and neglected children in Montana need caring and committed adults trained to represent their best interests, such as a CASA. They advocate for children who are abused and neglected, they respect the child’s right to grow up with dignity in a safe environment that meets their best interests; and they assure those interests are represented throughout their case and all aspects of life.
CASA volunteers receive 30 hours of initial training, plus 12 additional hours a year in monthly training, readings, and other related opportunities. Advocates also have ongoing, one-on-one supervision and group supervision to assist with the technical steps of helping these children. Every advocate is trained in the unique needs of abused and neglected children, courtroom procedures, social services, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
How to Become a CASA
Must be at least 21 years of age, must be available for court appearances, and willing to commit to the CASA program until your first case is closed.
Call For Inquiry
Mail For Inquiry
Complete an application below
Provide three personal or professional references
Participate in a personal interview
Complete a CPS & criminal background check
Fulfill required 30 hours of pre-service training
Swear in as a CASA before the District Court
Apply to be a volunteer today!
frequently asked questions
Listed are the most common questions asked by prospective advocates and curious members of the community.
DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?
No special background or education is required to become a CASA Advocate.
We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds.
Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
WHAT ROLE DO THEY PLAY IN A CHILD'S LIFE?
As a CASA/GAL advocate, your goal is to remain empathetic to the family while remembering that the child is your focus. It is essential to be objective; to stay detached enough to see clearly the child’s and family’s situation and needs. To be successful as a CASA/GAL advocate, you must care about the families of the children, but you cannot live their lives for them.
The most difficult boundaries to set and maintain are those between the CASA advocate and the child or children in the case. It is natural to care about a child who has been hurt and relies on you to keep their best interest at the forefront – if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t work so hard to ensure their needs are met. However, if you get too personally involved, it is hard to maintain the objective perspective required for advocacy work. Our goal is to be part of a temporary intervention in a child’s life – to assist in a time of need and then leave and let the child continue along their way. When the child is in a safe, permanent home, your work as a CASA/GAL advocate is done. It is time to move forward and help another child.
EXACTLY WHAT DOES A CASA DO?
Judges appoint CASA advocates to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings.
The primary responsibilities of a CASA advocate are to:
- Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members, and professionals in their lives.
- Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
- Appear in court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.
- “Be the glue”: Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives. As one advocate said: Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.
- Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their families receive appropriate services and advocate for those not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc., to the appropriate professionals.
- Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that procedures are being followed and mandated review hearings are held.
- Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child, so the court knows about the child’s situation changes.
WHAT IS A CHILD'S "BEST INTEREST"?
Parents typically decide what is best for their children and then provide it the best they can. They are their children’s best advocates. The court intervenes in families’ lives when parents can not or will not protect, promote, and provide for their children’s basic needs. A CASA/GAL advocate becomes the advocate when the parents cannot – or will not – fulfill this role.
Juvenile court judges use the “best interest of the child” standard when making decisions in child abuse and neglect cases. Child welfare and juvenile court practitioners and scholars have debated the meaning of “best interest of the child” for years. Although books have been written on the subject, there is still no concise legal definition for this standard.
In cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies, the law presumes that it is always in the best interest of Indian children to have their people determine what is best for their future.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT REQUIRE?
All advocates must complete 30-hour pre-service training. At this time, we are using a Guided Learning format that can be completed on your own time, according to your schedule, and it is offered all year round!
When you commit to becoming a CASA Advocate, you commit to walking with a child and family throughout their time in the foster care system. This is meaningful work that requires a meaningful commitment. The time commitment to a case varies depending upon the stage of the case. Advocates sometimes say there is a more significant amount of work at the beginning of the case, sometimes 16+ hours over the first month. Some of this work will have to be done during business hours, but much of it can be done on your own time. Every month, you can expect to spend time gathering information and visiting with the child(ren), their foster placement(s), the parents, social service professionals, and others in the case. If you would like a more detailed breakdown of the time you can expect to commit, call the office, and staff will be happy to help you.
DO I NEED TO MAKE A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT TO THE PROGRAM?
You are asked to dedicate yourself to a case until it is closed. The average case lasts about a year and a half but often longer.
Through best-interest advocacy, our programs and volunteers make a life-changing difference for the nation’s most vulnerable children.