Dorina Goetz and her husband cared for ten children in foster care over seven years. But they only ever had one Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) assigned to them. Just one. “She was so wonderful,” Dorina says fondly while thinking of the CASA volunteer. “I just remember her being very consistent.” When Dorina and her husband later adopted their daughter from foster care, they kept the contact information for the CASA. To this day, they remain in touch.
How CASAs Support Foster Families
Having a CASA was a game-changer for the Goetz family. Dorina can attest that most foster parents do not have a CASA, but they all wish they did. It is transformational to have a person involved in the foster care journey whose only concern is the wellbeing of the child, teen, or sibling group.
CASAs are volunteers appointed to be a voice in the court for a child or sibling group in foster care. Their role is to gather information and report to the judge about the best plan for the children moving forward. They commit around 8-10 hours a month to spending time with the children, talking with other people involved (caseworkers, foster parents, teachers, biological parents, etc.), and determining what to recommend. CASAs make recommendations about the case plan, but they can also monitor and recommend changes for aspects of everyday life to help a child or teen succeed. This includes advocating for tutoring, counseling, healthcare, and anything else the children need.
CASAs Are Desperately Needed in Foster Care
Dorina has been asked before whether there is a greater need for foster parents or CASAs. Having been in both roles over the past eight and a half years, she puts it this way: in the past decade, churches and communities have made lots of progress in recruiting, training, and supporting foster families. Dorina’s church – which has over 3,000 members and tons of foster families – hosts foster parent training and offers support for foster families. But of the countless foster families at Dorina’s church, she has not met one family with a CASA. Not one. “Now, tell me the need where you see it,” she says rhetorically.
With each person that chooses not to become a CASA, there is one more child without an advocate. One more child without a voice in court. One more foster family without a volunteer dedicated to making recommendations in the best interest of the child. You don’t need to bring anything special to the table to be a CASA. You just need a caring heart and a willingness to say “yes.”
Qualifications For Becoming a CASA Volunteer
There is a major misconception that CASA volunteers are special or highly qualified people. The truth is that almost anyone can be a CASA volunteer! If you are over 21 years old, you are more than likely qualified.
Here are the questions you really need to ask yourself:
- Can I be a good friend?
- Am I kind?
- Can I go to the park?
- Do I care about children?
- Can I have a conversation with a teenager?
- Can I color with a child?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are the perfect candidate for a CASA volunteer. Everything else you can learn in training. You just need to be willing to be yourself and build a relationship with a child – similar to a big brother/big sister relationship. You will have support for the rest.
Consistency is an important characteristic of a CASA volunteer. Over the weeks, months, or years that you might be part of a case, your presence could be the only consistent one. Caseworkers, judges, and even foster families can come and go for a child. Through it all, you can be their safe place and consistent friend. Your constant support can help them persevere.
CASAs must also be bold. As a CASA, you will make recommendations to the court about the future of children in foster care. Once you have done your research and prepared your report, you must be confident as a voice for the children.
Trusting God as a CASA
When you approach the role of a CASA as a Christian, the impact becomes even more meaningful. You have the opportunity to show God’s love to children who desperately need it. If you get attached to the children and teens you work with as a CASA, you are doing it right.
Foster parents (and even CASAs) are asked all the time, “How do you do it? I would get too attached and not be able to let go.” But foster care is not about us. It is about the children. Your role – whether as a foster parent, a CASA worker, or a support system – is to trust God. For the season that you are given with the children, you must do what you are supposed to do. God will take care of the rest.
The Story of Dorina’s Faithfulness
Dorina Goetz learned firsthand the importance of trusting God when she was a foster parent. After 14 months of caring for a little girl who came to them at just two weeks old, Dorina and her husband had to trust in the Lord when the girl was reunited with family. “It is the hardest thing,” Dorina recalls. “She has a piece of my heart.”
The situation was messy and tumultuous. When Dorina thinks about how difficult the case was, she states with honesty, “If you could build any resentment towards the foster care system, that would have been the case to do it with.” But she heard a sermon at church that changed her perspective. Her pastor spoke of how God created the universe and asked, “Don’t you think that He knows what He’s doing with you?” Immediately she felt the Lord tell her, “This little girl is in my hands, and you have to trust me.”
When you’re faithful, God delivers. A few years after the little girl had left the Goetz’s home, Dorina felt prompted to reach out to the caregiver. She knew it was not typical to keep in contact with a child once they are no longer in your care, especially considering how messy the case was, but she wrote an email telling the caregiver that she cared for them and was praying for them. To Dorina’s surprise, the caregiver responded. She wrote back saying that the little girl Dorina and her husband had fostered for over a year “is the person she is today” because of how they cared for her. It was confirmation to Dorina that God was part of the mess, and He knew what He was doing. This is the perspective CASAs can bring to their volunteer work.
Get Started as a CASA
You can fill the gap for children and teens in foster care by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). You will change their lives, but they will also change yours. To learn more about volunteering as a CASA in your state, visit the National CASA/GAL Association website.