The mission of the Lehigh County Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is to provide consistent, credible and trained volunteers who investigate, facilitate, monitor and advocate for Lehigh County's abused and neglected children in juvenile dependency court. These CASA volunteers serve as the "eyes and ears" of the Court. Input from these dedicated CASA volunteers assists the Court in making sound decisions that will provide safe, secure and permanent homes for these at-risk children.
Court Appointed Special Advocate Fact Sheet
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen (21 or older) who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those in foster care or at home for whom permanency is being addressed. All of the children are victims of abuse and/or neglect.
CASA volunteers undergo a thorough training course conducted by the local CASA Program. Training requirements are from 40-45 hours. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedure from the principals in the system from judges, lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. CASA volunteers also learn effective advocacy techniques for children, and are educated about specific topics ranging from seminars on child sexual abuse to discussions on early childhood development and adolescent behavior. In addition to the initial training, CASA volunteers receive 12-15 hours of in-service training annually.
As a child advocate, the CASA volunteer has three main responsibilities:
In order to prepare a recommendation, the CASA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CASA volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child-school, medical and caseworker reports, etc.
Caseworkers are employed by state governments. They work on as many as 30 cases at a time and are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each. The CASA worker is a volunteer with more time and a smaller caseload (an average of 1-2 cases at a time). The CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer can examine a child's case thoroughly, has knowledge of community resources, and can make recommendations to the court, independent of state agency restrictions.
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation in the courtroom. That is the role of the attorney. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background and current information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA volunteers do not represent the child's wishes in the court. Rather, they speak to the child's best interests.
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Aside from their CASA volunteer work, 52% are employed in regular fulltime jobs; 82% of the volunteers nationwide are women and 18% are men.
Yes. Juvenile and family court judges implement the CASA Program in their courtrooms. CASA 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.
Findings show that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and in the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have greater chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA children.
Each case is different. A CASA volunteer usually spends more time conducting research and interviews prior to the first court appearance. Once the initial investigation is complete, volunteers spend approximately 10-12 hours a month maintaining contacts and gathering information.
The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that unlike any other court principals who often rotate, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for a child. Lehigh County CASA requires an 18 to 24 month commitment upon assignment of a case.
Children from birth to 21 years of age who are victims of abuse and/or neglect and who have become wards of the state are assigned to a CASA volunteer. Lehigh County CASA gives priority to children under the age of 12.
Contact CASA via Email
CASA Phone number: (610) 782-3858
CASA Fax: (610) 782-3734
Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, 455 West Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101-1614 • (610) 782-3000