What We Do
Tennessee CASA provides training and technical assistance to existing CASA programs, and assists in the start-up of new CASA programs. With the support of the local judicial system and citizens, Tennessee CASA has many of the resources needed to help counties start programs.
The first local CASA agency was started in Nashville in 1984. During the following three years, Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville started programs. The Tennessee CASA Association began in early 1986. This is when the directors of these local CASA agencies began to meet informally to share ideas and discuss concerns. Later that year, the Tennessee Legislature appropriated the first state money for CASA programs, which helped to strengthen the CASA network across the state.
In 1988, the Tennessee Bar Foundation awarded grants to several CASA agencies in Tennessee through its IOLTA fund. The time was right to officially form a state organization, and the Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocate Association was chartered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit membership corporation.
Today, 31 CASA programs serve 57 counties across Tennessee, from Bristol in the Northeast corner, all the way down to Memphis on the Mississippi River. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021 1,681 CASA volunteers advocated for 5,772 of Tennessee's children who have been abused and neglected and provided more than 116,158 hours of volunteer service.
The Tennessee CASA Association is a member in good standing of the National CASA/GAL Association.
What a CASA Volunteer Does
Each CASA program or agency professionally trains and carefully screens volunteers to become Court Appointed Special Advocates in juvenile court for children who have been abused and neglected. These volunteers advocate for the best interests of the child with the goal of securing a safe, permanent home. Tennessee state law allows for judges to appoint CASA volunteers to "speak up" for the child's best interests. Most CASA volunteers advocate for only one child, or family of children, at a time. In fiscal year 2018, CASA programs across Tennessee served 5,361 children with 1,581 volunteers.
A CASA Volunteer’s Duties
- Find the Facts – A CASA volunteer reviews all relevant documents and records including, but not limited to, those of the social services department, police, court, physicians and schools. Volunteers interview the child, parents, social workers, relatives, school personnel, and others having knowledge of the facts in the situation that are crucial in getting a clear picture of the child’s life.
- Determine the Best Interests of the Child – In assessing the best interests of the individual child, CASA volunteers consider many things including: current age and sense of time, level of maturity, culture, ethnicity, and the degree of attachment to family members and siblings. Just as important to a child’s health development are continuity, consistency, identity, and a sense of belonging.
- Provide Written Reports and Appear at Hearings – The CASA ensures that all relevant facts are presented to the court at the time of the hearings.
- Explain Court Proceedings and the Role of the CASA – CASA volunteers explain court proceedings and the role of the CASA worker so that the child can understand what is happening.
- Monitor Implementation of Service Plans and Court Orders – It is critical that the CASA volunteer follow-up on the activities in a child’s case because this is often where the system fails. CASA volunteers may provide follow-up home studies for their cases and those that require interstate cooperation.
- Inform the Court of Developments – The CASA volunteer acts as the “eyes and ears” of the court. Because CASA volunteers are assigned only one or two cases at a time, the CASA volunteer has more time to spend on behalf of the child. The CASA may make the court aware of any failure of a court-ordered service or the family’s failure to participate in the court-ordered services. If circumstances change in the child’s life, the CASA volunteer should make those changes known to the court.
- Advocate for the Child in the Community – The CASA volunteer represents and ensures the child’s best interest with all service providers within the community.
Interested in becoming a CASA volunteer?
Please visit us at www.beforthechild.org