Q. Are CASA volunteers mentors?
A. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers or Child Advocates are much more than mentors. They are sworn officers of the court, appointed by the Nelson Court District Judge to advocate one-on-one for children or youth who are the victims of abuse and neglect in our community. Volunteer advocates can significantly influence a child or youth’s life during the journey from entering our court system to finding a safe, permanent home. Through their advocacy efforts CASA volunteers provide hope, increased opportunity, consistency, and a better life for children and youth in the court’s care. They help to end the cycle of abuse and neglect — making a difference for generations to come.
Q. Is there a “typical” CASA?
A. CASA Child Advocates come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. Diversity is valued and provides a foundation of strength to our program. The Nelson County CASA program is composed of both male and female volunteers over 21 years of age who may be employed full-time or part-time, be retired, volunteer attorneys or homemakers.
Q. What are the basic requirements for becoming a CASA volunteer?
A. All child advocates must complete the required orientation and training program, criminal/background check and meet with our Nelson County CASA Executive Director for approval in order to accept a case. CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, and be able to relate to people of different cultural backgrounds. It is desirable that the volunteers have effective oral and written communication skills, and it is required that they maintain objectivity and keep the confidentiality of the children, their families, and court records. They must adhere to the mission, rules and guidelines of the Nelson District Court and Nelson County Court Appointed Special Advocates program, and comply with required paperwork in a timely manner.
Q. How often should I be seeing my child?
A. It will depend on such factors as the child’s circumstances, the distance of the placement, and the age of the child. You are required by KRS 620.525 to complete one home visit with your child per month; however, Nelson County CASA encourages bi-weekly visitation to ensure you know and understand your child’s needs. During the off weeks, you may make phone calls to check in with your child. The average volunteer puts in about 10-12 hours per month of service. The important thing is to spend consistent and meaningful time with the child.
Q. Where do the foster children live?
A. The foster children live in children’s homes, foster homes, and group homes throughout Kentucky. Some have been there just a few days, other children have been there for several months. Getting to know the rules and behavioral programs in the home where your child is living is important. Always develop educated and meaningful relationships with the shelter workers and foster parents. Most of the children that CASA of Nelson County works with will reside with non-offending family members; such as, grandparents, aunts/uncles, or older siblings. It is important that you build a relationship with these individuals and understand the child’s day-to-day life in their home.
Q. What kinds of activities should I do with my CASA youth?
A. This will depend on the age and interests of the child, as well as, your own interests and the guidelines of their caregivers. You may not transport your child; however, you may encourage the family to meet you at community events, the local library, volunteer together at the local animal shelter, spend time cooking or baking together. Speak to CASA staff about creative and meaningful ways you can engage children in healthy activities. If you are working with a teen, you might spend time walking around the track together or playing ball. If you are working with a younger child you might go to the park, play a game, build a model, go for a walk, have a picnic, or read. Of course youth love going to a movie or out for pizza, but playing a game or just window shopping also can be fun. A phone call goes a long way to help youth feel connected on those days you can not see the youth. If you are on vacation and can not call, you might send a postcard.
Q. May I give gifts to my youth?
A. Nelson County CASA discourages extravagant gift giving. However, modest gifts are allowed on birthdays and special holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Always consider what is allowed / not allowed at the place where they are living, and keep in mind if siblings are living in the home.
Q. May I meet my child out of town?
A. You may not transport your CASA child in your own vehicle; however, you may meet the family or foster parents at a community event, play, or sporting event. All activities that take place outside of town require a mandatory 10 day review from CASA of Nelson County Staff. Child Advocates are required to submit in writing (via email) a request to attend an event outside of town with their CASA child/family 10 days prior to the event. Requests that are not received within the 10-day window will not be considered by Staff.
Q. May I meet my child at the pool?
A. You may not transport your CASA child in your own vehicle. Water sports and activities are one of the most risky recreational activities in which we can engage our children. It is very important that all activities around water obtain prior approval from CASA of Nelson County Staff. No exceptions.
Q. Why can’t I take youth to my home, bring my family on a visit or take the youth to my place of employment?
A. The children you are working with are youth that may already have moms and dads. These youths are also looking for places to live and people to take care of them while they are away from their parents. When we engage the children with our families and take them to our homes we are crossing a fine line of becoming more of what the children see as foster parents or potential places to live. In some cases the children even see you as a potential adoptive parent. Therefore, we as a CASA program, have rules to help you keep your boundaries and have found that the line between an advocate and a potential foster parent is best kept as clean as possible These children have enough people letting them down, and we do not want to become one of these individuals. You are a child advocate and you must keep your boundaries clean and your motivation for becoming involved objective and professional. We, as staff, do however want you to know that we realize our children have many needs. Please, always talk with a volunteer supervisor when your emotions become charged and you are feeling confused about the many rules we have as CASA volunteers.
Q. What if I can’t be an Advocate but still want to help?
A. There are many other ways that you can help CASA. We often need help with special events, mailings, and fund raising activities. Call our office and find out what opportunities are available for you. Some of these activities are fun to do with your child, too. If you find that donating your time is not possible, a financial donation is always welcome. Please see our donation page for more information.
Q. How many volunteer hours a month does it take to be a CASA?
A. It varies from person to person, case to case. But on average, the minimum time spent is 8-12 hours per month. The volunteer is the pace setter for interactions and the type of activities you engage in. Working with the foster parents, social worker and the CASA Volunteer Supervisor is advised at all times. Some visitation may need prior approval.
Q.What is the length of my commitment to this program?
A. The minimum commitment is one year. However, case duration may vary case-by-case.
Q. Once I’ve taken a case, where do I begin?
A. You will work closely with CASA Staff to ensure that you follow the appropriate steps while initiating your new case. First, you will review the Nelson County Court file regarding your child thoroughly; you may make any copies needed at this time to start your case and have an understanding of the child’s court history. Following reviewing the court file, you will call the family’s social worker (502-348-9048) to discuss current case circumstances and to set up an appointment to review their file (you may not make any copies of the social worker’s file or remove anything from their file). From here on out each case is different. You will want to arrange your first meeting with your child. Then you will want to meet with the child’s attorney, others such as the County Office of Education, then the child’s school teacher, therapist (if applicable), and other authority figures in this child’s life, in order to gain as much information about this child as possible. Be sure to carry extra copies of your court order with you at all times.
Q. My social worker does not return my phone calls. What should I do?
A. Social workers are very busy and we can not stress enough tolerance and understanding. However, you should call your Volunteer Coordinator if you find yourself in a position where you are not getting return calls in a timely fashion. You should not expect a social worker to be at their desk all the time. In fact most workers are in the field 60 -75% of the time. It is important that when you do call, that you leave a clear and concise message in addition to your name and number for contact (usually your cell number). Be sure to advise when is the best time the social worker can reach you, or offer to call back at a certain time if that is more convenient for them. Often a social worker may already be working on your particular concern, but just may not have had the time to return your call. The most successful CASA volunteers have professional relationships and consistent interactions with their social workers. Do not fall into the routine of only calling your worker when you have a problem. We all like to hear the good stuff you’re doing and seeing on your case.
Q. Why do I sometimes get several calls from the CASA staff regarding my child?
A. The CASA staff try very hard to keep you informed about any changes or paperwork we receive from the courts, group homes and social workers relating to your case. The paperwork does not always come in at the same time or even in the same envelope. Because of the volume of correspondence we receive. it is necessary to delegate and share, which may mean that two different people will end up with information regarding the same child. So, on occasion a CASA may receive more than one phone call from the CASA office on a given day. It is important to make sure all information is coming your way. We would not want you to miss anything.
Q. Where is the Nelson County District Court Room located (to observe court sessions during my training, or to appear for my child’s case)?
A. Appearing in court to observe a court session is the best way to prepare for your first court appearance. Always dress appropriately. Be aware that you are not allowed to carry firearms, sharp objects, food, or liquids of any kind into the court house. CASA Staff will always attend court with you. District Court is held every other Monday in Nelson County; you can expect your case to be heard every 30-180 days in court.
Nelson County Court House – District Court Room B
200 Plaza Drive
Bardstown, Kentucky 40004
Q. Do the Commissioners/Judges really read my reports and consider my opinions?
A. Yes, the judges understand that CASA volunteers have more time to get to know the child and provide the most up-to-date and accurate information about the child. This is invaluable to them in making the best possible decision for the child.
Q. What else does a CASA volunteer do besides visit the child?
A. CASA volunteers gather information and prepare reports regarding the best interests and needs of the child. CASA volunteers are legally appointed to their child and have access to confidential information such as school and medical records. They also help locate resources for the child.
Q: What kind of support would I have from the CASA staff?
A. CASA provides a Volunteer Coordinator for direct support. The Volunteer Coordinator is able to provide information about your child’s case, court information, reports and rules about the CASA program. CASA Staff will attend all court proceedings with you and any home or school visits where you may need additional support; do not hesitate to ask for someone to attend. CASA will also be providing you information about continuing education, activities for you and your CASA youth, and other information that might concern your involvement with CASA. CASA also has 24 hour supervision; CASA volunteers will be notified monthly who is oncall and the after hours phone number where they can be reached.