What do CASA volunteers do? 

CASA volunteers are appointed by Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court judges to investigate abused and neglected children's lives and report back on what children need to be safe and well. 

CASAs spend time talking with the children, their relatives, foster parents, social workers, teachers and others to identify the children's needs. The volunteers then write detailed reports to judges with recommendations about where the children can safely live and what services might help them.

The main goal is to ensure that each child grows up in a safe, permanent home instead of lingering in foster care or returning to a home where abuse is likely to occur again.

Who does CASA serve?

Most of the children CASA serves are in foster care, though some are at home with their parents under Protective Orders. Some also have been deemed Children in Need of Services. The children are involved in court cases in the city of Fredericksburg or counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford or King George.

Can anyone volunteer to be a CASA?

CASA volunteers must be older than 21, and we closely screen candidates to ensure that they will be safe, reliable advocates for children. No special educational or legal background is required, but strong communication and interpersonal skills are a must. We encourage people with a desire to make a difference to contact us (rappcasa@gmail.com or 540-710-6199) to learn more.

What training does a CASA volunteer receive?

New CASA volunteers take part in 30-36 hours of training before being assigned to their first case. Veteran volunteers continue to receive training through in-service sessions each year.

Is CASA effective?

A national survey of family court judges has validated the importance of the work CASA volunteers do. In the study, judges reported that volunteer input is very effective in helping them reach difficult decisions regarding the lives of the children in their courts. Key findings of the survey revealed that judges are most likely to assign CASA volunteers to the most difficult and complex cases.

Rappahannock CASA typically serves about 170  children each year, though that number at times soars (and at other times dips). We submit CASA reports at nearly all court hearings involving the children. These reports typically include several recommendations related to the children's well-being. Each year, judges incorporate the majority of CASA recommendations into their court orders.

National CASA reports that children with a CASA are less likely to linger in foster care, more likely to be adopted or have another permanent placement plan,  less likely to be expelled from school, and more likely to have a sense of acceptance and the ability to work out conflicts.

How much time does volunteering require?

Each case is different. CASA volunteers tend to be busiest at the beginning of a case and in the weeks leading up to court hearings. They may spend 15-20 hours a month working on a child's behalf, but it's difficult to predict and varies by case. CASA volunteers meet with the children they serve at least once a month. They also spend time talking with relatives, teachers, therapists and others important to the children's lives.

Does volunteering require a lengthy commitment?

We ask our volunteers to commit to serving a child for the duration of the child's case -- typically at least a year. The child may face many changes -- of schools, homes, teachers, social workers, etc. We want our CASA volunteer to be a consistent presence in the child's life.

Do any other agencies or groups provide the same service?

No. The Rappahannock Area CASA program is the only one where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child's best interest. We work collaboratively with other agencies and professionals, but our role is unique.

How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social services caseworker?

Social workers generally are employed by local or state governments. They offer services to families with the primary goal of reuniting parents and children whenever possible. CASA volunteers are independent appointees whose goal is to advocate for children's best interests. CASA volunteers typically have much smaller caseloads than social workers because CASAs serve no more than two children or two sibling sets at a time. 

Where can I get more information?

For more information about Rappahannock CASA, contact the CASA staff at (540)710-6199, or by email at rappcasa@gmail.com.