CASA of Carson City is an affiliate of the National CASA Association. See www.nationalcasa.org
The beginnings of CASA and its reason today lies principally in the desire of Judges for additional and independent information as they make important, life-changing decisions for children in child welfare cases. The CASA movement began in America in 1977, initiated by Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup. Being concerned about making decisions without enough information, he hatched the idea of appointing community volunteers to speak up for children in court. Over 50 citizens responded to his initail call for volunteers.
Today, more than 50,000 advocates serve in 948 programs nationwide. Besides court appointed special advocate programs some CASA programs are also called Guardian Ad Litem, Child Advocates and Voices for Children. In a few jurisdictions CASAs are attorneys. Since the beginning, CASA volunteers have served well over one million children.
The CASA movement was brought to Carson City in late 1986 by Judge Robey Willis, who was then the Juvenile Special Master, and by Sally Landis with the support of Soroptomist International of Carson City. From 1995 -1997 the organization was run by Betty Butler. In 1998, Chris Bayer, a CASA volunteer, became the Director, reorganized CASA as a non-profit, moved the organization from the tower of an abandoned fire station and bought a copier. The CASA Board began to raise funds. Today the budget averages about $75,000 per year with the organization advocating for over 100 children per year.
Since 1998 CASA of Carson City has provided guardian ad-litems for over 350 Carson City and Storey County children--meeting the need for every child for whom a GAL has been requested in Carson City and Storey County by the Carson City Juvenile Court. Case loads expanded greatly around 2000 as methamphetamine use in Nevada rose. Currently the program has 32 active volunteer speaking up for 77 children in child welfare cases. Currently, the program staff consists of Chris Bayer, Director, with Chrissi Barnett and Kim Pilant providing contract support. The program is also supported by its Board of Directors.
TWO TYPES OF CASES CASA OF CARSON CITY SERVES WHEN REQUESTED BY CARSON CITY'S COURTS: Child Welfare and Family Dispute. Some details:
Child Welfare Cases. These cases are our primary focus. National CASA Assoc. policy (and common sense) tells us that we should only take cases beyond our basic mission--child welfare cases--when we are able to serve all the children in child welfare cases. In child welfare cases, children have been removed from the home and are in state custody. Adequate local foster homes, access to mental health services and the length of time that children are in care are all issues for these children. Advocating for these children is our basic mission. CASA volunteers provide information and recommendations to the court. Call or email for more information or an application. Click for more information on children and the dependency system.
The CASA advocate serves as "guardian ad litem" under NRS 432b.500 CASA of Carson City advocatesreceive training on court procedures, child development, domestic violence and other relevant subjects. Over time they gain a deep understanding of social problems and of children’s needs. Being a CASA advocate is interesting, demanding and rewarding. It involves research, documentation, communication and patience. What are the duties of the volunteer?In the child welfare system, people talk about the team approach to cases--the team being many people: CASA volunteer, parents, attorneys, social workers, therapists, judge, teachers, relatives, foster parents, etc..Of all these people, the CASA volunteer is the only one not providing a direct service. The CASA volunteer is the only one with the sole job of listening to everyone and advocating to the Court. The CASA volunteer meets with the parent and the social worker at child welfare offices at the beginning of the case and creates a report to the Court giving their view of the case plan--the to-do list for the parents so that they can get their child returned to them. The CASA volunteer talks to teachers,doctors and foster parents to see how the child is doing and advocates for educational and health services to be ordered by the Court.
The CASA volunteer reports to the Court how the parent is doing on their case plan--their to-do list--and helps keep an eye on the child's safety and health. In the end, the CASA volunteer makes a recommendation as to whether they believe the child should be returned to the parent or go to adoption, guardianship or age out of the child welfare system at age 18. Our goal is a safe permanent home for the child. What is the commitment in terms of hours and number of cases assigned?
How long do you typically stay with a child? Cases typically last about two years. Each CASA volunteer is assigned one or sometimes two cases--meaning the children in one family, That can be one to five children in a family. You need to be able to take some time during the work day for hearings and meetings. There is a flurry of activity at the beginning of the case. Then it settles down with periods of activity along the way. The time week by week is not great. What new CASA volunteers notice is not the amount of time in the week but the need to stay focused over the long-haul. We ask that CASA volunteers stay with the case until it is over. This helps provide consistency and follow-through for the child.
Family Dispute Cases. CASA of Carson City takes a few high conflict divorce/post divorce custody dispute cases at the request of Carson City's District Court. Independent information helps the court make decisions. At the beginning, we interview both parents. Parents often find that they appreciate extra time to explain their concerns. We fully record both parents' concerns for the Court. We may also speak to the children, to teachers, the childrens' health providers and others to help the Court better understand the situation.