What is CASA?
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program, a national grassroots movement, provides investigation into the long-term well-being needs of children and youth involved in the Juvenile Court due to family related problems. This sensitive advocacy work is provided by trained community volunteers from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. CASA receives an appointment from a judge, at which point general case information is gathered and potential volunteer assignments are considered. Once assigned, volunteers, known as CASAs, work in conjunction with school systems, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), health professionals (including primary care physicians, specialists, mental health service providers, etc), and direct care providers (including parents, foster families, and residential facility staff). Friends of Children CASA staff and volunteers collaborate to gather information on the child’s well-being and report back to the local court system. They identify needs of the child that are not currently being met and recommend actions that can be taken to address these gaps in care. Additionally, CASA advocates for permanency to be achieved in reasonable time frames through either reunification with parents if possible or alternative placements through adoption or guardianship.
30 Years of Service
Friends of Children (FOC) has run the Franklin Hampshire CASA program, which fits well with the overall advocacy mission of our organization, since 1993. Franklin/Hampshire CASA, one of 7 programs in Massachusetts, is a member of the National CASA Association which represents more than 950 CASA programs nationwide. Our program currently serves more than 80 children and youth annually within Franklin and Hampshire counties at an annual cost of $1,963 per child.
Keeping Siblings Connected: One Recent CASA Case
Identifying information has been altered to protect client confidentiality. The circumstances outlined in this case are true.
At the start of 2022, siblings John and Robert came into the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) following a mental health crisis within their immediate family. Since then, there have been significant struggles providing the children with stable foster placements. As a result of this placement instability, it has been difficult for each child to receive the array of services they need.
John, 15, had been in need of ongoing therapy, which was inaccessible due to lack of transportation. When neither DCF nor the foster parent were able to commit to transporting John, the CASA volunteered to drive John from school to his weekly sessions. John has shared with his CASA how much these weekly sessions have positively impacted his life and how the time that he and his CASA spend together has helped him to feel understood and connected.
Robert, 3, has struggled with a significant speech delay which negatively affects his social and emotional development–and changes in foster placements have prevented him from receiving much-needed speech-therapy services. While this issue has yet to be resolved, CASA has researched and presented numerous options to DCF, the local school district, and the current foster parents to ensure that a resolution will be reached as quickly as possible.
Because of their significant age difference, the brothers have been in separate foster placements since entering DCF custody. Over the last year, this has caused immense stress for both boys, as they were not able to visit each other consistently or have regular communication until the end of 2022. With the support and advocacy of the CASA, the new foster parents are now able to provide the siblings with open access to visitation, including an overnight visit that occurred over the winter holidays.
“It’s been a privilege to build trusting relationships with each of my CASA kids, as well as their caregivers, and providers. I’ve felt empowered to not just make sure they are getting their most basic needs met, but to advocate for access to services and opportunities that too often are viewed as “extras” in the child welfare system like the music, speech, and language programs that can help them thrive.”
— CASA Volunteer