CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

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.

In 1976 juvenile court judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA saw a recurring problem in his courtroom.  Though he was receiving information from social workers, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, their opinions and recommendations were limited in scope.  Soukup was frustrated that he couldn’t see the whole picture of the child’s life, and thus couldn’t make a satisfying judgement for the child’s placement.

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.

National studies confirmed that children assigned a CASA volunteer receive more services than those without and are 95 percent less likely to reenter the child welfare system.  As a result, these children’s chances for leading happy, healthy and productive lives are increased.
CASA of Cook County is needed because there are over 6,000 children dealing with the issues of abuse and neglect in Cook County’s overwhelmed and drastically under resourced child protection system.  Without a helping hand like the one that CASA of Cook County provides, abused and neglected children in the foster care system might simply fall through the cracks and never be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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.

The simple investment of providing a caring CASA volunteer to a child can help break the cycle of child abuse and neglect.  According to Congress, every $1 invested in the prevention of child abuse and neglect can save up to $5 in social service costs.  Both of these outcomes benefit not only the child, but also the community.

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.

CASA volunteer advocates are ordinary people who are concerned about the happiness and safety of all children.  You do not need a social work background or legal expertise to be a successful advocate, but you do need to be committed to your case and willing to fight for what is in the child’s best interest.  Part of the CASA program’s success has been the diversity  of volunteers – full-time workers, stay-at-home parents, retirees, college students and people of all races, religions and economic backgrounds – who want to make a difference in the life of a child.
One of the greatest gifts we can provide to the children we serve is consistency.  Thus, it is important that volunteers understand the dedication necessary to fulfill our mission.  We know that everyone has busy lives, but we ask our volunteers to dedicate 12 months of service, with an average of 10 hours spent on the case per month.

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.

CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand observers of the individual needs of abused and neglected children in foster care, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.

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
Because children are involved, strict confidentiality must be maintained by all parties involved.  Relative anonymity is necessary to protect the children and thus our efforts aren’t always publicized.
There are many ways:

  • Become a volunteer advocate by starting the application process     Volunteer
  • Make a donation     Donate
  • Support a fundraising event      Events
  • Invite CASA of Cook County to speak at your business, organization or faith based meeting     Contact Us
You can reach CASA of Cook County at 312-433-4928 or info@casacookcounty.org.