Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the children that CASA of Western Maryland serves?

The children that receive a CASA are children from birth to 21 years of age, who are deemed by the courts to be a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA). They may be in a foster home, group home, private facility, or in guardianship with a relative. CASAs are not part of other cases such as custody hearings or divorce mediations.

Why is a CASA needed?

A CASA volunteer is appointed by the court to be its eyes and ears. The CASA learns about the child and his/her family, strengths, needs, and makes a report to the court. This report is a recommendation for the best plan for the child. This helps the court decide on the best permanent plan for these children in need. A child’s CASA advocates for the child’s best interests.

How is CASA funded?

CASA of Western Maryland is a private, non-profit organization and receives funding through grants from foundations, individuals, corporate contributions, and special events.

How do CASA advocates research a case?

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 and other documents.

How does a CASA volunteer differ from a social worker?

In Maryland, social workers are employed by the government’s Department of Social Services (DSS). They are sometimes responsible for up to 15 or more cases at a time, which limits their time with each child. The CASA volunteer works with only one child at a time and therefore has more time to research each child’s individual needs. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker on a case; he or she is an independent appointee of the court assigned to thoroughly research the child’s case, explore community resources, and make a recommendation to the court independent of agency restrictions.

How does the role of a CASA volunteer differ from an attorney?

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 information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. It is important to remember that CASA advocates do not represent a child’s wishes in court. Rather, they speak to the child’s best interest.

How does the CASA volunteer relate to the child he or she represents?

CASA advocates offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reason they are in court and the roles the judge, lawyers and social workers play. CASA advocates also encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers. CASA advocates have input to the age and gender of the child they want to work with. If a CASA volunteer has a special skill, our staff tries to match the CASA with a child who may need such services as special needs, educational needs, or medical background.

How many cases on average does a CASA volunteer carry at a time?

Most CASAs serve only one child at a time.

How much training do CASA advocates receive?

Volunteers receive 30 hours of initial instruction. Training is conducted by CASA staff. In addition, CASA advocates must complete 12 hours of in-service training each year.


How are CASA advocates supervised?

CASA advocates have quarterly case conferences with a professional staff member of the CASA program and frequent telephone consultation. A monthly group meeting of volunteers and in-service training are offered.

How much time will it take each month to serve as an advocate?

The average for an advocate is 5-10 hours a month.

How long does a CASA advocate remain involved with a case?

The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. On average, a case will last a minimum of one year, and we do ask our volunteers to commit to at least one year of advocacy. We do this in order to ensure each child we serve is given a dedicated Advocate that will show commitment and consistency.

What qualifications does a CASA need to have?

CASAs come from diverse backgrounds, much like the children we serve.  CASAs must be 21 years of age, have reliable transportation, and have a clean criminal history. The most important qualification is the ability to provide 5-10 hours a month to effectively serve a child in need.

Are there other agencies or groups providing a similar service?

There are other child advocacy organizations, but CASA is the only program where volunteers are appointed by the court to represent a child’s best interest.

How do I get started?

The first step is to fill out an application. Applications are available online under the Volunteer link, or you can contact our office at 301-777-1262 for an application. After your application is received, you will be contacted for an in-person interview. CASA training is required for volunteers. Training consists of 30 hours of pre-service instruction from a CASA staff member. Training is available on-demand after the interview process. Following the successful completion of training, you will be sworn in by the Circuit Court as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. You will then be assigned to a child.