The Virginia CASA programs are part of a national volunteer movement that began in 1977 when a judge in Seattle decided he needed to know more about the children whose lives were in his hands. He started using community volunteers – regular citizens – as a “voice in court” for abused and neglected children.
These Court Appointed Special Advocates® (CASA) provided him with the detailed information he needed to safeguard the children’s best interests and ensure that they were placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. The program was so successful that it was replicated around the nation.
Virginia’s first CASA program began in 1986 in Newport News. In 1990 the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation providing for statewide implementation of the CASA program. The legislation assigned the responsibility for oversight of local programs and for development of statewide regulations to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
The regulations provide programs with standards to help ensure consistency in program development and service delivery; addressing several basic areas including screening, training and policy and procedure development for local programs. The regulations were revised in 2008.
How Many CASA Programs Are There?
There are 27 CASA programs in Virginia recruiting, training and supporting volunteers to represent the best interests of children who have been neglected or abused, in the courtroom and other settings. Nationwide, there are more than 950 CASA programs.
The Virginia Department of Social Services operates a Child Protective Services Hotline. Calls are accepted at anytime and are referred to the appropriate local department for a response.
CASA staff and volunteers are not allowed to give legal advice nor become involved in a case unless appointed to that case by a judge.