For nearly 30 years, CASA of Cook County has been training diligent, committed, everyday citizens to stand up for children in the foster care system who have suffered the trauma of abuse and neglect. Trained volunteers advocate for the best interest of foster children who are under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Juvenile Court through no fault of their own. By getting involved, volunteers can help break the cycle of child abuse. Being a CASA volunteer is an opportunity which offers the ability to impact multiple generations in the future.
He initiated a program of community volunteers who would be sworn in as officers of the court and would then be responsible for investigating all aspects of the child’s life and reporting their findings to the court. This one-on-one interaction would allow for a thorough, more complete, picture of the child’s needs and help the judge make a more informed decision.
CASA of Cook County was established in 1986 as the first CASA program in Illinois, as a program of Illinois Action for Children (not the same IAFC as exists today). In 2001, CASA of Cook County became an independent not-for-profit organization and to this day continues its mission to advocate for our most vulnerable citizens, our children.
There are three main factors that separate our volunteers from other professionals involved with a child’s case:
- They look at the case with a strictly objective eye, acting as an independent observer for the court and speaking up for the best interest of the children
- CASA volunteers are assigned to only one case at a time and are able to give each child the focused attention they deserve
- In a system with too much turnover, CASA volunteers are consistently a part of the child’s life during the duration of the case
In the end, and judges have agreed, it is often the work of CASA of Cook County that ultimately leads to a child being placed in a safe, permanent home.
CASA of Cook County gets its funding from a variety of sources. Very little funding comes from the county, state or federal government. Instead, we seek financial support from various outside means including foundations, special events, individual giving, places of worship, associations, corporate sponsorships and planned giving.
We are always looking for new funding opportunities and fresh ideas so that we can continue to provide our services to children.
There are a number of qualifications that must be met to be considered as a volunteer. After applying and passing a background check, the potential volunteer must be able to fully complete the comprehensive volunteer training program. We ask that volunteers be 21 years of age or older. We also stress that volunteers be able to relate in a positive, objective manner to children, families and other professionals.
The first step to becoming a CASA volunteer is to fill out an inquiry form.
As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:
- Serve as a fact finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of the assigned case
- Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, representing his or her best interests
- Act as a monitor for the child for the duration of the case, ensuring that the case is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion
Judges typically assign CASA volunteers to the more difficult or complex cases involving physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Several other factors are also considered in making this decision:
- The instability of the child’s current placement
- The presence of conflicting case information
- Concerns about the implementation of special services such as medical care, counseling and education assistance