GILA COUNTY — Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) have been standing up for children in Arizona’s foster care system for 35 years. CASA volunteers are everyday people who get to know the kids they are appointed to, talk with everyone involved in the case and help judges identify the best outcome for the child. More than 25,000 children in Arizona have benefitted from having a CASA volunteer on their side.
The CASA program began in Seattle, Wash. in 1977 when juvenile court judge David Soukup decided he needed an unbiased source to help guide him in juvenile cases. Pima County, Ariz. started the second program in the nation in 1979 and CASA of Arizona was formed in October of 1985. The Arizona legislature passed a bill in 1991 that allowed CASA of Arizona to claim 30 percent of unclaimed lottery winnings. The funding mechanism allowed CASA of Arizona to open a CASA program in all of Arizona’s 15 counties.
“We’re proud of the growth CASA of Arizona has experienced over 35 years,” said Deidre Calcoate, Program Manager for CASA of Arizona. “We have such dedicated volunteers who are changing the lives of children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect. This is not easy work, but we know it is important work. In a system that is so overwhelmed, our volunteers provide an extra set of eyes and ears for juvenile judges who make life changing decisions for children in out of home care.”
Children with a CASA volunteer are more likely to receive services, twice as likely to find a safe, permanent home, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 children in foster care in Arizona get the support of a CASA volunteer.
There are nearly 1,200 CASA volunteers serving children in Arizona. During the 35th anniversary, CASA of Arizona is encouraging more people to get involved.
To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer in Gila County, call us at 928-402-4427, email [email protected] or visit our website at www.CASAofGilaCounty.org.
For more information about CASA of Arizona, visit www.CASAofArizona.org.
More about CASA:
The CASA program is administered by the Arizona Supreme Court and has programs in all 15 Arizona counties. County programs recruit and train community-based volunteers to speak up for the rights of abused and neglected children in court. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to foster children who have the greatest need for an advocate. Volunteers do not provide placement or a home for the child but are strictly advocates who submit their recommendations directly to the judge hearing a child’s case. CASA volunteers complete 30 hours of training to prepare them for their duties.
Child Abuse Statistics:
In fiscal year 2020, the statewide Child Abuse Hotline received 155,905 calls.
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse followed by physical abuse.
The majority of children who are in out-of-home care in Arizona (44.6 percent) are ages 0 to 5.
Volunteers must be at least 21 years old.
Volunteers go through a rigorous screening process including interviews, reference check, a fingerprint check, child welfare history check, and a polygraph exam.
Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to one case until its conclusion, typically involving 15-20 hours per month.
Volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training.
CASA volunteers build a 360-degree view of the child and his or her surroundings. To do this, they meet with teachers, counselors, physicians, care takers, etc.
CASA volunteers work to ensure that children are in safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.