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Frequent Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will being a CASA volunteer fit into my life?

    Many of our CASA volunteers work full time, though it is important to have some flexibility in your schedule.  As a CASA volunteer, you can expect to spend an average of about 12-15 hours a month working on your case, including time spent on the following activities:

    • visiting with the child
    • participating in meetings and court hearings
    • communicating with professionals, family members and caregivers
    • documenting your visits and advocacy progress in your child's file

    Many of these activities are self-scheduled, so often you will be able to have evening activities/meetings, but some do require daytime flexibility.  CASA volunteers are expected to attend court hearings and team meetings whenever possible. Hearings (at least every six months) are held during the day, as are most meetings with professionals.  We recommend that you discuss this opportunity with your employer.  Many employers are very supportive after learning more about the program.

    Many CASA volunteers are retired and enjoy traveling.  Unless you will be away frequently and for long durations (one month or more), and as long as you give notice first and foremost to your appointee(s) and speak with your case supervisor, your vacation or travel plans are not likely to interfere with your advocacy.  


  • What is CASA and the Washoe CASA Foundation?

    Washoe CASA ("Court Appointed Special Advocates") falls under the umbrella of the National CASA/GAL association who, together with state and local member programs, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive.

    The Washoe County CASA Program of the Second Judicial District Court trains, supervises and supports CASA volunteers who represent the foster child's best interests in the court process, ensuring the court has all the information needed to make the best decision for the child and ensuring their right to a safe and secure home.

    The Washoe CASA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 1989 as the auxiliary organization supporting the Washoe County CASA Program.  The Foundation supports the CASA Program primarily through volunteer outreach, community awareness and fundraising. Advocating for the foster child and ensuring their voice is heard is CASA’s mission. 


  • Who are the children CASA serves?

    CASA volunteers advocate for abused and/or neglected children within the Washoe County foster care system.  These are children who have been removed from everything familiar – home, family, friends – and find themselves in a world filled with social workers, lawyers, judges and courtrooms.  

    Sometimes, life-altering decisions are made on the child's behalf in the courtroom, and the CASA volunteer's goal is to ensure the court has all the information needed to make the best decision for the child. CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening and the roles the judge, lawyers and social workers play. CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his own opinions and hopes, while remaining objective observers.


  • What is a CASA volunteer?

    What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)? A trained volunteer, sworn in and appointed to a specific case by a judge. A CASA is the voice and advocate for children who have been abused and neglected. Working in conjunction with case professionals and attorneys, a CASA works as a child advocate volunteer for the best interest of a child.

    CASA volunteer experiences include meeting with the child at least monthly and attending regular Child/Family Team meetings with case professionals, parents, and/or foster parents. A CASA will meet with teachers, daycare providers, health providers, and other service providers as needed. At least every six months, a CASA will write a court report with recommendations to the court for the child(ren)'s best interest. A CASA will also attend periodic court hearings. 

    Requirements include:

    • you must be 21 years old
    • complete necessary background checks
    • provide references
    • participate in an interview
    • complete a minimum of 40 hours of pre-service training

    When you become a CASA, you agree to:

    • see the child weekly
    • have regular communication with CASA staff
    • follow through on the case
    • maintain a high level of confidentiality
    • provide information to the court by submitting a court report
    • submit a monthly report on hours volunteered 

    CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens.  No special or legal background is required.  Volunteers are screened closely for objectivity, competence, and commitment.  A CASA needs sound decision-making skills and the ability to remain objective and non-judgmental.  While no special educational background is required, a volunteer must have above average perceptiveness, common sense and maturity to deal with complex and emotional situations. 


  • What is the CASA volunteer's role?

    A CASA volunteer provides a judge with carefully researched background information about the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future, keeping in mind each case is as unique as the child involved. To prepare a recommendation for the court, 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, case worker reports and other documents.  A CASA volunteer monitors court-ordered services to ensure effectiveness, and advocate for additional services as needed.  A CASA volunteer would document observations, facts, and circumstances of the child’s situation in a written court report including recommendations for placement, services, and permanency.  A volunteer would maintain complete records of contacts, hours, and mileage. CASA volunteers attend court hearings.


  • How do I become a CASA volunteer?

    In Washoe County, we are always working to increase the number of volunteers. We believe all children in foster care will benefit from the help a CASA can provide.

    Prospective CASAs must undergo an application and screening process and successfully complete 40 hours of pre-service training. Volunteers learn about social service and courtroom procedures from the principals in the system--lawyers, social workers, court personnel and others. The CASAs learn effective advocacy techniques and are educated about family systems and the effect that abuse, neglect and abandonment has on children. 

    Volunteers also participate in courtroom observations to reinforce classroom learning. Volunteers gain exposure to the many issues confronting the judge in court proceedings while seeing firsthand the roles of the different parties to a case, including the role they will play once they are assigned their own case. Once the volunteers have completed and passed their training, they are sworn in as officers of the court and take an oath to conduct themselves in accordance with the rules of the court.   CASA volunteers must also commit to two years of service.

    Here is additional information and specific requirements about becoming a volunteer.



  • How can I be a good CASA?

    •    Maintain objectivity and professionalism in dealing with the child and all other parties involved.

    •    Ability to maintain confidentiality.

    •    Possess excellent verbal and written communication skills.

    •    Must be at least 21 years of age.

    •    Must pass a background check, have a valid driver’s license/identification, valid phone number, and have a permanent address.


  • What is the CASA volunteer time commitment?

    •    Complete 33 hours of pre-service training and 3 hours of court observation.

    •    Complete 12 hours of continuing education training annually.

    •    Able to commit to a minimum of 2 years.

    •    Willing to donate 8 to 10 hours per month.

    •    Able to commit to training hours as noted above.

    •    Attend court hearings or arrange for supervisor attendance.

  • What topics are covered in the CASA Volunteer Training?

    CASA Training Overview

    Chapter 1 Summary -- Introducing the CASA Volunteer Role

    In this chapter, participants learn about their roles and responsibilities as CASA/GAL volunteers and the principles that guide their work. This is a “big picture” chapter, setting the historical and current context of child protection and describing the CASA/GAL volunteer’s place in the overall system.  Key child welfare laws will be discussed, as well as discussion about the local court system. This session provides an opportunity for participants to feel inspired, knowing they can make a difference in the lives of children. Court report writing and case studies are introduced in this chapter and integrated throughout the curriculum, as these key components are integral to the role of CASA volunteers.

    Chapter 2 Summary – The Well-Being of the Child

    This chapter focuses on all there is to know about child development and what a CASA/GAL volunteer needs to know to do his/her job. The goal is not for volunteers to master all the information, but to help develop intuition and be able to “red flag” situations that should be evaluated by a professional or discussed with a supervisor. The importance of attachment in childhood is also covered.

    Chapter 3 Summary – Trauma, Resilience and Communication Skills

    This chapter introduces the importance of effective communication in CASA/GAL volunteer work. Participants practice the skills they’re learning in order to build confidence and prepare them for their role.*Examines the dynamics of cultural differences.

    Chapter 4 Summary – Mental Health, Poverty, and Professional Communication

    In this chapter, it is important for participants to understand that while mental illness and poverty are risk factors for child abuse and neglect, most people affected by mental illness and poverty do not abuse and/or neglect their children. When working on a case that involves either mental illness or poverty, participants should always focus on the parent’s ability to provide a safe home.

    Chapter 5 Summary – Substance Abuse and Cultural Competence

    This chapter addresses substance abuse and how it can affect a parent’s ability to care for a child. This chapter also includes why participants need to know about this subject, why they need to be aware of their personal values about substance use/abuse, and ways volunteers can set aside their values in order to consider what’s best for a child.  This chapter introduces the concepts of culture, diversity, disproportionality and cultural competence that will be further explored in chapter 6.

    Chapter 6 Summary – Domestic Violence and Cultural Competence

    This chapter goes deeper into cultural competency issues and delves further into addressing bias, stereotyping, institutional racism, and allowing participants the opportunity to create a plan for increasing their cultural competence.

    Chapter 7 Summary – Educational Advocacy, Older Youth and LGBTQ Youth

    The material in this chapter about educational advocacy and advocacy for older youth is intended to briefly introduce issues related to these topics.

    Chapter 8 Summary – Wrapping Up 

    This chapter wraps up the pre-service training program. As participants prepare to launch into their real-world role as CASA/GAL volunteers, they review what they have learned in training, evaluate their strengths and challenges, and identify their support systems.

    Training Topics included throughout each chapter:

    Practicing the CASA Volunteer Role – Case Studies and Information Gathering

    Court Report Writing

    Documenting Case Notes into the Computer System

    Court Observation

    The Interactive curriculum is designed to help the CASA volunteer gain confidence in acquiring the competencies needed to become an effective CASA volunteer.


  • Why do children need CASA volunteers?

    The committed service of a trained CASA makes a real difference both to the judge, who can depend on the CASA for well-researched recommendations based on the child’s needs and also to the child who has a consistent adult to count on during a difficult time in their lives. Social Service caseworkers and attorneys often have case loads of over 30 children, which can hamper their ability to give individualized attention and support to the children they represent.  CASA volunteers are generally assigned to one child for the duration of their case. The CASA volunteer is often the only consistent adult in the child's life who stays involved in the case from beginning to end, providing stability and continuity.  

    There are currently more than 900 children in foster care in Washoe County. This statistic is worrisome. Foster children struggle against enormous odds to become healthy, successful adults. Although some resilient foster children succeed in the face of these hurdles, many do not. As many as 24% to 50% become homeless within the first 18 months of emancipation from foster care. CASA volunteers can change these odds.

    Research by National CASA has found that a child with a CASA is…

    • More likely to find a safe, permanent home
    • More likely to be adopted
    • Half as likely to re-enter foster care
    • Less likely to spend time in long-term foster care
    • More likely to have a permanency plan
    • Likely to have more services ordered for them
    • More likely to have a consistent, responsible adult presence
    • Likely to spend less time in foster care
    • Less likely to be bounced from home to home
    • Likely to do better in school
    • Twice as likely to graduate from high school

    Most importantly, children themselves report that they know and can rely on their CASA volunteer. 

    “I think the best way to describe the impact that CASA had on my life is to compare my life and opportunities to my little brothers who grew up in the foster care system without a CASA. I was fortunate enough to have an advocate fight for my rights and care about my potential and future. My two little brothers grew up in the foster care system without ever having been adopted and without any stability. The only difference in our lives was my CASA and their lack thereof. Without my CASA, I’m confident I’d be living an impoverished life in a world of drugs and abuse. I wouldn’t have had my opportunity to attend college and graduate school. I wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve been given. And mostly I wouldn’t have been gifted the love and support from the people I now call my parents and family. My well being, my success, and my support system can all be attributed to a single woman who took the time to believe in a dirty, barely thriving, little redhead child.”      Ashley, Former CASA child


  • What's it like to be a CASA volunteer?

    CASAs are ordinary people who care about children and their future. Adults 21 years and older of all backgrounds have joined our ranks. No legal experience is required. Please keep in mind the CASA’s mission is advocacy, not mentoring. Advocating involves learning about the child’s needs and wishes and serving as a voice for the child’s best interest within the child protection system.

    What is needed is a commitment of your time, your energy, and your heart. As a CASA, you will learn values important to CASA advocacy, including responsibility, self-awareness, respect for differences, critical thinking and collaboration.

    CASAs spend the majority of their time gathering information from those involved in the case, including teachers, foster parents, attorneys, caseworkers, parents and family members to determine the facts and circumstances of the child’s situation. Of course, you will also spend time with the child getting to know him/her and appreciating his/her uniqueness.

    CASAs offer children trust and advocacy during the complex legal proceedings.  CASAs contact the child on a regular basis to observe and gather information about the child's well-being.  They encourage the child to express his or her own opinions and hopes while remaining objective observers.  They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reasons they are court dependent, and the roles the judge, lawyers and social workers play.  

    “It has been and remains one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences in my life.”    Susan, CASA Volunteer since 1995


  • How is a CASA different than other court related workers?

    Social workers generally are employed by county governments.  They work on several cases at a time, while the CASA is a volunteer with more time and smaller caseloads (typically no more than two children).  The CASA does not replace a social worker on a case, but rather he or she is an independent appointee of the court.  The CASA makes recommendations to the court independent of the social worker.

    The CASA does not provide legal representation in the courtroom.  That is the role of the attorney.  However, the CASA does provide crucial background information that can assist attorneys in presenting their cases.  The CASA advocates for the best interests of the child and makes fact-based recommendations to the court.  

    The primary role of the CASA volunteer is to gather information about the child, write reports to the court and attend court hearings.  CASA is not a mentoring program.  The CASA volunteer does not involve the child in their personal life and does not play an active role in the child's day-to-day life.  Instead, the CASA volunteer is involved with the child and the case while the child is in foster care, to help him or her during this difficult time to help insure the best possible outcome.  Once the case has ended, the CASA volunteer role also ends.   


  • Is there a "typical" CASA volunteer?

    We have CASAs from all walks of life!  No special background or education is required to become a volunteer. No prior knowledge of the foster care system or legal experience is required. We encourage people from all cultures and professions, and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds.  Once accepted into the program, you will receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, and the special needs of abused or neglected children. 


  • How do CASAs get assigned to cases?

    Judges overseeing family court cases can appoint a CASA to a case.  The CASA program case managers review the appointments and assign a CASA to the case.  When a volunteer is appointed to a case, they become an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers as an appointed officer of the court.  At the time of their appointment, the volunteer is given an Order of Appointment signed by the judge that gives them the authority to act on their assigned case.  


  • Will being a CASA volunteer cost money?

    CASA Volunteers will certainly use some of their own money for gas, meals, or other small items, but your Washoe CASA Foundation would like to support you with larger purchases.  If your CASA kiddo needs something special, like fees for an art class or sports team, we would like to reimburse you for those costs.  If you kiddo needs a backpack, school supplies, shoes, or a winter coat, we will provide you with gift cards to cover costs like these.  We also partner with businesses and organizations in our community to provide low or free admittance to various places, events and activities.  Part of your training will include instructions for accessing all that we want to provide you with.  



  • I can’t become a volunteer, but I still want to help. What can I do?

    Not everyone has the time necessary to become a CASA. However, there are many other ways to make a difference. Please email us at to see how you can help.  Please also check out our "Other Ways to Help" page, which include several options for you to help out our program.  


  • Do I have to be an American citizen to become a CASA?

    National CASA does not have a specific requirement that a person be a U.S. citizen, however, a program must be able to appropriately complete background information on a prospective volunteer.  We still must complete the regular background check we do for the program, even knowing it is not going to pull any information most likely.  Additionally, the person must legally be in the United States and then we must request documentation, such as a Green Card or official identifying papers/information, possibly including a letter or certificate of good standing.

    Also, the Court should be advised if a volunteer is screened differently. The process might take longer than a normal background check.  The simple answer to this question would be no, there is nothing stopping a non-citizen from applying to be a CASA volunteer.