Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is CASA different from the Placer Mentor program?

CASAs provide a voice for a child through court advocacy. CASA volunteers are officers of the court and are matched with a child to develop a supportive relationship. CASAs are actively involved in the legal aspect of these children’s lives, they have access to confidential information regarding the child, they attend court with the child, they interview persons involved in the care of the child, and they write court reports with recommendations to the judge. Time spent together is for the benefit of the child and is vital to help the CASA develop an understanding of the child’s particular needs.

I have a busy schedule. Can I do this and work full time? Are the hours flexible?

The hours a volunteer spends with the child are flexible but we request you spend a minimum of 6 – 8 hours per month. It is up to you to set a time with the child and the caretaker that will work for all of you.

Is any experience necessary?

No specific experience is necessary. The training will provide you with needed information to help you succeed.

What days/times are trainings held?

Child Advocates of Placer County training is approximately 35 hours. Included in the training is fifteen hours of independent study, four evenings, one morning observing dependency court, and finally a meeting to match you with a child on our waitlist.

Is a volunteer assigned to more than one child?

Most volunteers are assigned to one child. Occasionally, a volunteer is assigned to a sibling group if it is in the children’s best interests and their issues are not too divergent. Rarely, a volunteer with more time may take on another case.

How old are the children?

CASA children are ages 0 – 18. Children in the Placer Mentorship program are ages 14 – 24.

Where do the children live?

Most CASA children live in foster care, while some live in group homes or with relatives. Some children live at home and are being closely monitored. A CASA can be especially important if the child is able to return home to their parents/caregivers. CASAs help assure the safety and well-being of the child. Most children in our Placer Mentorship program are living with a parent but some may be with relatives. Most children live in the Placer County community but there are times where a CASA child is living outside of the county.

Are CASA children delinquents?

No. They have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect by their parents/caregivers. They become “dependents” of the Placer County court. IF the child commits a crime, he/she may be a dual jurisdiction case. The differences between children in dependency and delinquency is covered in your training.

Where do I take my child when we have a visit?

After you get to know each other, you may take your child any public place that is age appropriate for that child. You cannot take the child to your home, your relative’s home or your friend’s home. CASA advocates do not take their assigned child on family outings or out with friends. This is time for you to spend, one to one, with this child.

How did the CASA movement begin?

In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. From that first program has grown a network of more than 951 CASA and guardian ad litem programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

How are volunteers assigned to a child?

We take into account preferences of the volunteer and the needs of a child to make the best match as possible. You will review the case information first with a staff member. It is important to insure you have a great experience.

Is there support for volunteers?

Absolutely, each volunteer has an experienced Case Supervisor who has been a CASA or Mentor themselves who is available for questions and feedback.

It is strongly recommended that volunteers attend monthly 90min in-service trainings which is a great way for you to network and problem solve issues, as well as stay up to date on new developments on legislation affecting the industry. Volunteers have access to training offered from outside community partners. Volunteers are encouraged to call their Case Supervisor at any time with questions.

Are the parents of these children receptive to a volunteer seeing their child?

Yes, in many ways the parents are encouraged by caring adults wanting to make a difference.

What if I travel, go on vacation or have a conflict and cannot attend an important meeting or hearing?

Many of our CASAs travel frequently and are still able to manage a CASA case. You will usually have ample notice of court hearings and, although you have the most knowledge to share with the court, you can arrange for another CASA or staff to attend in your place if necessary.

Can I buy gifts or provide financial support for the child or family?

Should there be a need that is not being met, we will assist you in an effort to locate the appropriate service. While it’s okay to provide inexpensive gifts for a child’s birthday or special occasion, this should be the exception rather than the norm.

What if I have an emergency or question and the office is closed?

When you take a case, you will be provided with the cell phone numbers of all the CAPC staff. Should a situation arise that needs to be immediately addressed and it is outside of office hours, you will be able to reach your supervisor or other staff if necessary.

Who does the CASA volunteer have contact with?

CASA volunteers are in contact with the child’s family, social workers, foster care contractors, as well as with the therapists, school staff, service providers, foster parents, and most importantly the child. Volunteers attend case planning conferences, contact attorneys, and attend court hearings.

If I would still like to help, but am not sure I can commit to being a volunteer at this time, is there something else I can do?

There are a variety of things an individual can do to support the mission and help abused and neglected children, indirectly. Some opportunities might include helping with volunteer recruitment activities by inviting a staff member or volunteer to speak at your club or organization, recruit friends and neighbors to be volunteers, distribute information within your community, help with fundraising activities, and make a donation.

Why does a child need a CASA volunteer?

When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson—an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, they also have other interests. CASA volunteers are usually assigned one case at a time. A CASA provides that child with a “voice in court.” A CASA gives individual attention to each case.

Does the court listen to what a CASA has to say?

Judges know their decisions are only as good as the information they receive. So, they count on CASA volunteers to be an independent voice and they know that CASA volunteers have more time to focus on specific cases. A CASA who can tell the court “I was there. This is what I observed” is invaluable.

How do we know CASA volunteers are effective?

Studies have shown CASA volunteers to be effective in reducing court costs, reducing stays in foster care, and even reducing rates of delinquency. A study conducted by the National CASA Association showed that children with a CASA volunteer spent approximately one year less in care than a child without a CASA. This represents a savings to taxpayers and it also means that a child finds a permanent and safe home more quickly.

What is the time commitment?

All volunteers try to see their child once a week. We ask for a one year commitment. However, for CASA volunteers the commitment can be longer.

Is there a cost associated with being a volunteer?

We ask for volunteers to help cover the fingerprinting fees. There is some out of pocket expense to volunteers for gas and occasionally for snacks while seeing the youth. We also intend to solicit as many free passes to attractions, events, shows and tours that would be available to the volunteers to help subsidize the cost as well as for planned group activities.

If I have a criminal background, does this omit me from applying?

It depends. Applicants are automatically rejected for the following reasons:

1) Arrest and/or Conviction for acts punishable as any crime involving: a) crimes against a child, b) violent felonies, and c) any sex crimes. Arrests without convictions are subject to a thorough review by Agency staff.

2) Applicants with a DUI/DWI conviction within the last three years, or two or more convictions within the last ten years.

3) Applicants with direct personal or family involvement with the Child Welfare system.

3) Applicants who provide services to children and/or their parents within the child welfare and/or Juvenile Court System (such as County Social Workers, Foster Parents, etc.). Exclusion is to remove any potential conflict of interest

4) Motor Vehicle violations (using DMV point system): a) Drivers with any 2 point violations on their current record, and/or b) Drivers with a 3 point total of violations on their current record.

In addition, the following reasons may lead to exclusion, pending CAPC staff review:

5) Conviction of a crime other than those stated above in Section 1) within 5 years before applying to be a volunteer (not including vehicle code misdemeanors).

6) Currently undergoing prosecution for a crime other than stated in Section 1) (not including vehicle code misdemeanors) at time of application.

What if I have to drop out of a program prematurely?

If there is no alternative to being able to stay through the duration of a case, we will appoint another volunteer as quickly as possible. This will be handled with care to make sure the youth understands they are not being abandoned

Are there any safety concerns?

While there is no way to guarantee anyone’s absolute safety, the program has taken several steps to protect all participants. Safety guidelines are part of your training.

How does mentoring help?

There has been a great deal of international research carried out on the benefits of mentoring to a young person. Research by Tierney and Grossman and Dubois et al has shown that young mentees are less likely to become involved in criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse or to drop out of school early. Instead they are more likely to have improved academic performance and have better relationships with their teachers and family compared to their peers who are not mentored.

What is the role of a mentor?

While every mentoring program has a different job description for their mentors, they all have one common goal which is to help a young person fulfil their potential and discover their strengths.