Frequently Asked Questions
What is CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County?
CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) Child Advocates of Montgomery County is the only recognized not-for-profit organization whose primary role is to train and supervise volunteers who are appointed by the court to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children. CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County is an affiliated member of the National CASA network with 933 chapters in all 50 states.
What is a Child Advocate?
Whenever a child is removed from their home by the authorities, the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem to speak for the child’s best interests in court. In Montgomery County, courts with this jurisdiction ask CASA to provide a trained volunteer Advocate. The CASA Advocate speaks for the child in court, and looks out for the best interests of the child including their medical welfare, psychological welfare, education, and housing.
Last year, 215 Montgomery County Advocates helped 606 abused neglected children find safe, permanent homes. CASA volunteers are everyday citizens who have undergone screening and training with our local office in Conroe.
What is the role of a Child Advoate?
After being assigned as a Guardian ad Litem, an Advocate researches the background of the child to form the basis of sound decisions about the child’s future. The Advocate works with Child Protective Services to understand the reasons for removal of the child and to ensure that the child’s best interests are being met while in care. Advocates monitor the family situation to be able to determine if it is in the best interest of the child to be returned to the family, or if the child should remain in long term care or be a candidate for adoption. Advocates follow the case until the child has a permanent, safe home.
How does a Child Advocate differ from a CPS Caseworker?
CASA Child Advocates typically have only one or two cases at a time. Because Advocates are volunteers and are only addressing the child’s needs, they are viewed as less adversarial by the affected families, thereby eliciting greater cooperation and gaining important information which can be used to ensure the child’s best interests are being met.
CPS Caseworkers are assigned to multiple cases where they monitor and act on the children’s needs and monitor the parent’s progress in achieving necessary skills and other goals. Caseworkers often have many cases concurrently and are not able to monitor to the same depth as a volunteer Advocate.
How does an Advocate differ from a child’s attorney?
The Advocate does not provide legal representation or advice; that is the role of the Child’s attorney. Advocates often interact more frequently with the children than the attorney. By providing the attorney with crucial background information, Advocates assist the attorney in their representation of the child in the court. The Advocates also testify independently of the Child’s attorney.
What services does an Advocate provide for Children?
Advocates help CPS and other involved caregivers provide needed services for the children by understanding the child’s needs. These services range from meeting medical and psychological needs to therapeutic and rehabilitative services. Advocates are the voice of the child in court, and can bring service shortcomings to the attention of the judge, who can order that the necessary services be provided. As the only agency providing trained volunteers to serve in this role, CASA Child Advocates partner with other agencies to provide quality of life experiences for children such as annual picnics, holiday parties, and tickets to entertainment events.
How do the legal system and child welfare system view CASA?
CASA Child Advocates has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice. CASA is described as the eyes and ears of the judge, and frequently acts as the arms and legs of an overworked child protective system.
Does CASA of Montgomery County have specific goals? Are they being met?
Our goal is to provide a court–appointed Advocate to serve as Guardian ad Litem for every child who needs us and break the cycle of abuse in our community, one child at a time.
CASA always needs more volunteers to adequately meet this objective. Currently, we are able to assign volunteer Advocates or paid staff to approximately 84% of the cases before the courts in Montgomery County this year. Not every case needs an Advocate, but of those that do, we want to be there when called.
Is CASA of Montgomery County effective in reducing child abuse?
Besides addressing a child’s best interest, the goal of most cases is to change the child’s home environment so that the cycle of abuse and neglect will be broken for that family. Parents are required to be evaluated and trained to improve their positive parenting skills. If children are returned to the home, the Advocate monitors the home environment for a period of time to ensure that abuse is not occurring. Nation wide studies and audits on the benefits of a CASA Advocate conclude the following:
- Children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than 3 years in care: 13.3% for CASA cases versus 27.0% of all children in foster care.
- When a CASA volunteer was involved, both children and their parents were ordered by the courts to receive more services. The audit concluded that this was an indication that “CASA is effective in identifying the needs of children and parents.”
- Cases involving a CASA volunteer are more likely to be “permanently closed” (i.e., the children are less likely to reenter the Child Protection System).
Does every child in the court system have an Advocate?
No, not all children need an Advocate. Some children are able to move in with another family member, or require special care in a facility capable of providing the level of care that they require. Most children who are the victims of abuse do need an Advocate. Unfortunately, the number of cases in Montgomery County continue to grow faster than our volunteer corps. There are currently more cases of child neglect and abuse in Montgomery County than can be accepted by the 190+ active volunteer Advocates. Because of this shortage, we assign Advocates to the more complex cases and to those cases where the need for an Advocate is greatest.
What does it take to be a volunteer CASA Advocate?
You must be an adult who cares about the well being of children, who is interested in learning how to do basic investigations and is willing to speak up for a child in court. After a background check, you will be given training and after you have been assigned a case, a CASA supervisor will work with you to support you and to guide you through the process. To find out more, call us at 936-441-KIDS (5437) ext. 209 or email us at volunteer@CASASpeaks4Kids.com
Where does CASA get the funding?
CASA of Montgomery County has a 501(c) (3) classification from the federal government and is a registered non-profit charity. As such, CASA depends on the generosity of the public in the way of individual, corporate, and foundation support. All contributions to CASA are tax deductible.
Why is CASA Montgomery County not a part of United Way?
At this time, CASA of Montgomery County is not a member of any United Way and does not receive any money from the United Way. We have a good relationship with our local United Way leadership and consider the United Way a partner in serving our communities. Currently, our local United Way has informed us that they are not accepting any applications for new member agencies.
Who are the largest financial supporters of CASA
Several corporations have named CASA as a focus of their nonprofit support. In recent years, CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County has also received financial support from TETRA Chemical, Bayside Printing, The Simmons Foundation, The Houston Endowment, Northside Lexus, and many others. Last year, CASA Child Advocates received two large grants from federal and state agencies which are aimed at supporting victims of crimes.
Where does the donated money go to?
Just like a church or other charitable organization, CASA employs a staff to recruit, train, and support volunteers. Donations from all sources go to support the staff and maintain a physical office that staff and volunteers use as a training and meeting facility. It currently costs $3,880 to recruit, train and support a volunteer Advocate.
CASA’s budget is developed, approved, and monitored by a volunteer Board of Directors consisting of community leaders. All income and expenses for the organization must pass an annual audit by an independent CPA and meet all requirements for a non-profit established by the IRS. CASA of Montgomery County must also meet the standards of quality annual audits by the Texas State and National CASA organizations.
How are donations stewarded? Who provides oversight of the donated funds?
CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County has an all volunteer Board of Directors of community leaders who meet bi-monthly and are responsible for the financial and operational health of the organization.