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Serving the vulnerable in the foster care system

What a CASA volunteer does

Everyone can take part in caring for vulnerable children in the foster care system, whether through prayer, donations, financial support, or serving in some way. My role as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) means that I advocate for the best interests of children who are in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect.

What does a CASA do?

CASAs are appointed by the juvenile court in their area to a specific case involving one or more precious children and agree to remain with that case until a safe, permanent home is achieved. A CASA’s aim is to provide the judge with the best information possible so that they may make a well-informed decision when they rule on the case. 

I have been shocked to learn the sheer number of children currently in foster care, more than 14,000 in my state of Alabama alone. Some of the common criticisms are fair. The system may be unnecessarily complex, and the wheels of justice often move very slowly, but contrary to some assumptions, the dedicated professionals I’ve worked with—social workers, lawyers, foster parents—genuinely desire what is best for the children in their care. However, they are often operating under the weight of an insurmountable case load. 

Here is where a CASA can make a difference. As the eyes and ears of the court, a CASA is not only able to speak out for the child’s well-being but is also able to be a consistent presence in that child’s life. They are true advocates: those who plead the cause of another both by their testimony and by their presence in the child’s life. A CASA advocates by lending their voice, time, and help to children who may not have a voice of their own.

The CASA process

When I go before the court as a CASA, I present a report that summarizes my interactions with the case and the recommendations I am making. I answer questions from four different attorneys representing four different interested parties, all in reference to the well-being and welfare of the child(ren) in foster care. 

In order to compile my report and make my recommendation, 

  • I visited the child in her foster home multiple times. 
  • I visited the home of her biological parent at least twice. 
  • I observed her parent’s supervised visit on several occasions. 
  • I made phone calls, researched records, and pored over legal documents and court orders. 
  • I consulted her social worker in regard to how the state views the child’s best interests.

CASAs seek to learn all they can about the child, his or her family and situation, and any other contributing factors that may have a bearing on his or her circumstances. A CASA may be called on, as I was, to testify regarding the child’s best interests when it comes to placement, services that may benefit the child, as well as any other recommendations the CASA believes will contribute to a thriving future for the child. 

Caring for the vulnerable

At my first home visit, I quickly realized that despite all my training, I still had a lot to learn about the family court process—itself complex and complicated—as well as the scary and heartbreaking situations these young children have had to navigate as part of their “normal” day-to-day existence. 

No doubt, you’ve heard horrific stories. Though not all children have experienced such extreme circumstances, in my limited time as a CASA, I’ve talked to a young girl who was beaten with a curling iron, another who hid in the closet while one parent pulled a gun on the other, and a child who didn’t attend school for two years. These aren’t stories told in the abstract; they are events—real, live experiences of real, live children. 

The Bible instructs us to care for the orphan and widow. This is true, genuine religion. In other words, one mark of authentic faith is care for the most vulnerable (James 2:27). As we extend mercy and love—and advocacy—to the helpless and the needy among us, we point to our Savior. He looked to the interests of others even as he made himself a servant (Phil. 2:4-7). Not only that, but Jesus tells his disciples that their compassionate care for those most needy, “the least of these,” was the same as if done to Jesus himself (Matt. 25:40). We serve him by serving like him. CASA is one way I hope to do just that.

If you’re interested in knowing more, check out, where you can find out about your state and local CASA organizations and ways you can make a difference in a child’s life.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the pro-life movement in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift here to bring hope to the public square.

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