By Katheryn Ogle, Attorney and CASA Advocate
McDonald, Levy and Taylor, PLLC
CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocate
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for children’s best interests. They stay with each case until it is closed and assist in ensuring the child is in a safe, permanent home. CASA serves children from birth through the age defined by state statute as the limit to youth remaining in care. In Tennessee, this is typically eighteen, unless there are outstanding circumstances for a particular child.
Volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
CASA’s Best-Interest Advocacy
CASA’s best-interest advocacy is driven by the guiding principle that children grow and develop best with their family of origin, if that can be safely achieved. Most of the children we work with are in foster care, but some are with their family of origin. When a child is in the custody of the state, and they exit custody, this is usually back to their family or with family members.
To Become a CASA Volunteer
To become a CASA volunteer, one must receive a minimum of thirty hours of training before they begin working with a child, and each year, volunteers must receive an additional twelve hours of continuing education.
A CASA Differs From a Social Worker or an Attorney Appointed to Represent the Child
The volunteers are assigned to only one or two children or sibling groups at a time. The volunteers stay involved in the case from the time of appointment until the child achieves permanency. CASA volunteers are specially trained to consider issues relevant to the best interests of the child, which may be different than the interests of other parties or the child’s wishes.
CASA of East Tennessee
In Tennessee, there are more than thirty local CASA organizations to serve children, and nationwide, there are nearly 1000 agencies, with almost 100,000 CASA volunteers. The local CASA agency for Knox County is CASA of East Tennessee. To learn more about the local CASA organization, and for information on becoming a volunteer, visit their website at https://www.casaofeasttn.org.