by Donna McBride, Program Administrator/Public Information Officer, CASA Unit of Pinal County Juvenile Court
Our mission is to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile courts. We promote and support community-based volunteers, certified by the Arizona Supreme Court, who provide quality advocacy to help assure each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.
Legislation was passed in 1991 establishing the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program as a statutorily mandated program with a specified funding source — 30% of unclaimed lottery prize revenues. CASA programs were established in Arizona’s 15 counties in 1994 with over 25,000 children served.
Today, there are 948 CASA programs nationwide with nearly 97,000 volunteers. In Arizona we have 1,225 CASA volunteers serving 2,374 children. But there are so many children who do not have an advocate. A staggering 13,500 children live in foster care, group homes and shelters. Pinal County has 1,155 of those children with 71 CASA volunteers. We need more.
As a volunteer you often are the only consistent adult presence a child will have while in foster care. You are the eyes and ears of the judge, the wisdom of the community and the voice for the child’s best interest.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and represent various ages, education levels and professions. Your responsibility will be to:
- Develop and maintain a trusting relationship with the child.
- Research facts and interview people involved with the case (foster parents, service providers, etc.).
- Monitor child’s placement, observe child’s behavior in various content, and assess needs and report successes.
- Identify service needs and make recommendations regarding permanency for the child.
- Provide written reports to assist the court in making informed decisions about the child’s future.
Children who have experienced abuse or neglect fare better with a CASA volunteer. Studies show they are more likely to find a safe, permanent home, more likely to succeed in school, and are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system.
CASA of Pinal County offers specialized training to help volunteers feel comfortable in their role. Volunteers must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, 21 years of age, able to pass a background check, dedicate approximately 10-12 hours a month and complete 30 hours of pre-service training and 12 hours of in-service training annually.
More information is available at
www.CASAofPinalCounty.org or 520-866-7076