CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. The CASA Advocate is appointed by a judge to advocate, or speak for, a child or children in foster care. CASA advocates are ordinary citizens who come from all walks of life and all ethnic and racial backgrounds. They must be at least 21, have a valid driver's license, current auto insurance and transportation, no criminal record, and be committed to helping children. A CASA advocates must complete a training program and commit themselves to the child or sibling group for the duration of the case. CASA advocates work alongside attorneys and social workers as appointed officers of the court. They do not work for the Department of Family and Protective Services. CASA is a separate, non-profit agency. After being trained, a CASA advocates is appointed to a case. When a CASA advocates is appointed to a child's case, he or she is responsible for taking the time to find out as much as possible about the child. CASA advocates search for information by reviewing records, interviewing parents and other family members, talking to teachers, doctors, foster parents, and anyone else who may have information about the child. CASA advocates form trusting relationships with the children they serve and represent the children's interests at all times. They make recommendations to the judge about any issues/concerns relating to the child's educational, medical, emotional needs and the best, most appropriate, permanent placement for a child in foster care.
The mission of CASA of the South Plains is to provide trained, court-appointed volunteers who investigate, monitor and serve as advocates in the judicial system to help abused and/or neglected children secure permanent placement in safe, secure and nurturing homes. CASA began in 1977 when a judge in Seattle, Washington decided he was uneasy about making decisions in ten minutes that would affect children for the rest of their lives. The judge launched a program to train and appoint community volunteers to research the cases of children who had been removed from their homes for various reasons. Today there are almost 937 CASA programs across the nation with 50,801 volunteers. A Lubbock County Judge first appointed a CASA advocate to serve as an abused child's advocate in 1993. Since that time, over 5000 children have been provided over 1000 advocates. In December of 2000, CASA of Lubbock began expansion efforts into the newly created "South Plains Cluster Court", thus calling for the name change, CASA of the South Plains, Inc. With the assistance of Senator Robert Duncan, the Honorable Kelly Moore, and Texas CASA, we were able to secure funding through the governor's office to expand into the new court. Since 1995, our program has grown from two employees to 14 full-time staff and over 125 advocates. Gradually our expansion has grown to our current standings of recruiting advocates in Cochran, Hale, Hockley, Terry and Yoakum Counties to serve children whose cases are in the courts in each of those counties.