The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Kern County speaks for abused and neglected children in the juvenile dependency process. Through the use of highly trained volunteers, the CASA program seeks to provide every child who needs an advocate with a voice in the court process.
CASA of Kern County's goal is to protect and insure each child's right to a safe, permanent home. These children have come into the Juvenile Dependency court system as the victims of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. Their caretakers have been unable to keep them safe, so social services and the legal systems have entered their lives.
The CASA volunteer is a sworn officer of the court whose job is to provide the juvenile court judge or referee with an independent assessment of the circumstances of the child. The CASA's report is drawn from their evaluation of interviews they conduct with key parties in the child's life. The CASA makes recommendations for the disposition of the case based on the child's total circumstances. In addition, the CASA attends all court hearings pertaining to the child. With the support of the program staff, they represent the interest of the child in the proceedings, which are normally scheduled every six months.
Once a child has been determined by the court to be either abused, neglected or abandoned, CASA will receive a referral from the Juvenile Court. When a volunteer becomes available, he or she will review the case information and consult with the social worker, attorneys, foster parents, group homes and other significant adults involved with the child to develop a case plan.
The volunteer will prepare a court report prior to each court hearing regarding his/her recommendations and evaluations for the child. The Juvenile Court Judge will read and consider the CASA report along with the social worker's report prior to making a decision.
Because of our unique one on one advocacy, CASA volunteers can provide information to the Court that is not usually available. The large number of cases filed in Juvenile Court, along with dwindling resources available to investigate cases, the judges often make decisions based on less than objective data. The CASA volunteer's objective, unbiased recommendation to support the best interests of the child, is an invaluable asset to the Judge.