CASA of Cook County
is in a unique position to serve children in the county’s protective custody and help them find safety and permanency. The central work of the organization is to train ordinary citizens and pair them with children in the foster care system to advocate for their best interests in court, schools, and communities. CASA Advocates focus on one or two children at a time and spend an average of 10 hours on each case per month until the case is closed. They meet with the child monthly, as well as connect with the many adults in the child’s life, such as teachers, natural parents, and foster parents, to ensure they are not further abused, receive necessary services, and find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. CASA Advocates are sworn in by the court and make a recommendation to the judge for permanent placement with the child’s safety and best interests in mind. Judges accept CASA Advocates’ recommendation for placement 85 percent of the time, a strong indicator of the trust that judges have in the organization and our volunteers.
There are currently more than 5,600 child victims of abuse and/or neglect in Cook County who have been placed under the protective care of the Illinois child welfare system. Children in the foster care system have more challenges in terms of health, education, wellness, and other outcomes than any other single demographic group of children. Research indicates the longer children spend in foster care, the more exacerbated their challenges become. However, case complexity, restricted budgets, high caseworker turnover, and inadequate staffing create obstacles to meeting the needs of these children and their families. In such an overburdened system, gaps in case monitoring and service delivery can contribute to either a delay of services, families not receiving critical services needed, or additional maltreatment. In fact, Illinois is last in the nation in achieving timely permanency for children in foster care.

The outcomes for children who have a CASA volunteer are well documented:

Children assigned a CASA volunteer spent a shorter amount of time in foster care, were less likely to reenter protective custody, and had better outcomes in terms of education, physical well-being, and mental health. Furthermore, one year of CASA advocacy costs a fraction of the cost of a year of foster care while having a tremendous impact on the child, both in the present and future. Every one of the 5,600 children currently in Cook County’s protective custody deserves a CASA volunteer to protect them from further abuse and help them find a safe, permanent home.