We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program provides CASAs, specially trained volunteers who are appointed by a Family Court judge, to work on individual cases of children at risk of abuse or neglect.
The CASA Program is part of a national network of programs dedicated to reducing the amount of time a child spends in foster care and or preventing foster care. By monitoring the individual cases and advocating for system improvements, CASAs facilitate prompt placement in a safe, permanent home.
Currently, in New York State, there are approximately 26,000 children in foster care. Each child spends an average of 2.2 years in foster care. Between Broome County and Tioga County, there are over 1,000 children involved in the court system who could benefit from the assignment of a CASA. These children and their families are thrust into both social services and the court system where it is up to a Family Court judge to make important decisions about their future.
Judges often have to base decisions on incomplete information. Overburdened child welfare workers and attorneys for the children do not have the time or resources to thoroughly monitor court orders or to find out first hand what is really best for each child. As reports of abuse and neglect keep crowding court dockets, children increasingly become lost in the system. CASA programs provide professional staff and trained volunteers to assist Family Court judges by fact finding, advocating and monitoring permanency plans for children involved in Family Court proceedings and their families.
Studies show that children with CASA volunteers have a better chance of living in a permanent home than children who do not have a CASA volunteer assigned. CASAs often reduce the number of times a child moves from placement to placement. Cases which have a CASA volunteer assigned are more likely to have fewer adjournments, thereby saving tax dollars. A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to secure needed services in a timely manner.
The effectiveness of CASA programs is due in large part to the personal motivation of the volunteers and the low number of cases each volunteer manages. CASAs spend considerable time and effort on their cases without monetary compensation and are willing to remain involved over extended periods.