Can a Child Advocate really make a difference?
The introduction of just one caring adult in the life of an abused child can change the course of that child's life forever. With volunteer advocates, children who have known only hurt, rejection and disappointment from adults learn to trust, hope and love. A court appointed volunteer advocate makes a profound and positive difference for abused children. Studies have demonstrated that children with a CASA experience fewer placement changes, are more likely to be adopted and are less likely to reenter the child welfare system than children without a CASA.
Who can be an Advocate?
No special skills are required--only the desire and commitment to make a difference. Advocates must be 21 years of age, complete a comprehensive background check and are asked for a minimum commitment of two years in order to ensure stability and consistency for the children we serve.
How much time is required?
An advocate generally sees a child on a regular basis, spending between 10 and 15 hours each month on volunteer responsibilities. Approximately twice a year, volunteers submit reports to the court and attend a court hearing regarding the child.
How do I begin?
Your first step to becoming a CASA is to attend an Information Session. Information Sessions are scheduled the first Tuesday of each month from 12:00 PM - 12:45 PM in the CASA office. This is your chance to learn more about the program, hear veteran advocates speak about their experiences and have all your questions answered.
I'm not sure I can commit to become an advocate right now. Is there something else I can do to help?
CASA has a variety of volunteer opportunities that would allow you to support our mission to serve abused children. You might consider assisting with activities for our children and advocates, or getting involved in fundraising projects. Or make an online donation or mail it in.
Do I need special training to be an advocate?
Yes, but CASA will provide all the training you need. The content of CASA's 30 hours of training is mandated by the National CASA organization and the State of California Judicial Council. You will learn about the child welfare system, how to work with children involved in the system, and other skills necessary to help your assigned child. Volunteers can choose from a range of options to satisfy the 12 hours of additional training that are required of advocates annually.
What if I need help with my CASA child?
Each volunteer is continually supported by, and in contact with a professional and experienced Peer Coordinator. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I know a child who needs a CASA advocate, how do they get one?
If the child is currently in foster care or state custody, you can ask the judge overseeing the case if he or she would consider appointing a CASA advocate to their case, or have someone, such as legal counsel, ask on your behalf. CASA volunteers do not choose which cases they are appointed to, and there are many more cases than available volunteers.
How do I report abuse or neglect?
If you feel that children are in immediate danger please call 911. If you suspect abuse call Merced County Child Welfare at 385-3000, extension 5858 during normal business hours or call 722-9915 if after 5:00 pm weekdays or during the weekend.