Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program
About the Program
Since 1996, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of McLean County is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children who have been abused and neglected through volunteer advocacy. CASAs are trained volunteers from our community who are committed to making a difference in a child's life. A CASA volunteer may be a stay-at-home parent, a corporate employee, a retiree, a nurse, a teacher, or anyone interested in advocating for children. We strive to provide a CASA volunteer to as many children in foster care as we can, but we need your help!
The mission of the McLean County Court Appointed Special Advocate program is to promote and protect the best interests of children who have been abused/neglected by providing well-trained volunteers to advocate for children and their families through a trauma-focused lens until a safe and permanent home is secured.
All children have the right to grow up feeling loved, nurtured, and safe in their homes and communities.
McLean County CASA believes that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are central to our mission and align with our core values that all children have the right to grow up feeling loved, nurtured, and safe in their homes and communities and that every aspect of our organization supports Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. We strive to ensure equity for all children and their families in McLean County regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, abilities, age, and/or socioeconomic status.
Eyes & Ears of the Court
A CASA volunteer serves as the eyes and ears of the court. CASA volunteers are responsible for independently investigating and reporting the circumstances of their assigned cases to the court. CASA volunteers are dedicated solely to reporting what is in the best interest of the child, and advocate for safe and permanent living arrangements.
CASA volunteers are to be objective and professional. Each CASA volunteer develops their own independent assessment of what is in a child’s best interest and works in conjunction with a CASA case supervisor. CASA volunteers do not go at it alone, as the CASA staff supports them each step of the way.
A CASA volunteer communicates with all parties to the case to gather information for the court. These parties may include attorneys, biological parents, foster parents, caseworkers, counselors, physicians, teachers, and of course, the children they are advocating for. The CASA volunteer then prepares an independent, objective court report detailing their findings. The court report outlines recommendations as to what the CASA volunteer believes is in the best interest of the child. The report is then submitted to the court for consideration.
About the Training Experience
Preservice training classes are offered four times per year (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall). For more information on upcoming training dates call the Volunteer Recruiter and Trainer at (309) 888-5855 or email them at [email protected]. Applications are due at a minimum of four weeks prior to beginning the preservice training.
There are ongoing training opportunities for CASA volunteers after being sworn in by the court. CASA volunteers must complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. This can be completed through a variety of ways including monthly in-service training offered by the program, reading relevant books and articles, watching movies or documentaries relating to foster care issues, etc.
Anyone over the age of 23 years old, is not currently providing foster care for a child, and can pass a thorough background check is eligible to become a CASA volunteer.
Persons interested in becoming a CASA volunteer need to fill out a Volunteer Application which includes 3 references, participate in an initial interview, undergo a background check, and participate in a 30+ hour preservice training course prior to being accepted by the program and the Court.
After we have received your application, an initial interview will be scheduled.
|Mary Pat Frugo-Anderson- CASA Program Director||Taylor Martinez - Lead Case Manager|
MaResa Jordan - Case Manager
|Amanda Speiser - Case Manager||David Trenor - Volunteer Recruiter/ Trainer|
- How long is a CASA volunteer assigned to a case?
Every case is different, and the length of each case can fluctuate, but in general, from the time of case appointment to the end of the case is generally 18-24 months or until a safe and permanent home is found.
- How much time does a CASA volunteer spend advocating per month?
The time commitment fluctuates. The biggest time committment is the initial 30+ hours of preservice training. Generally, an average of 5-10 hours per month is spent providing best interest advocacy.
- How many cases does a CASA manage?
Generally, CASA volunteers advocate for one case at a time. However, a case may involve more than one child from the same family.
- Can I be a foster parent and a CASA?
You cannot currently be fostering a child and be a CASA volunteer. However, we welcome previous foster parents, or those who are not ready to be a foster parent but still want to make a difference in the life of a child residing in foster care.
- Do CASA volunteers maintain relationships with the children they serve after the case closes?
Some families choose to maintain active relationships with the CASA volunteer, and for other families, maintaining a relationship with a CASA volunteer may be a difficult reminder of one of the most trying times in their lives.
- What types of support does a CASA volunteer receive once they are appointed to a case?
A CASA volunteer works hand in hand with a CASA case supervisor right from the beginning of a case. A CASA volunteer’s supervisor is there to help them navigate the Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Court, the foster care system, and all components of best-interest advocacy. As well, volunteer appreciation events and quarterly get-togethers are held to help CASA volunteers develop connections and a support network of other CASA volunteers.
- What impacts does a CASA volunteer make?
As a child in foster care life is changing constantly, a CASA volunteer may be the one consistent and caring adult in that child’s life. By being that consistent person, a CASA volunteer can help fight the effects of childhood trauma and aid in building resiliency. In addition, a study from the Illinois CASA Association indicated that a child with a CASA spends an average of six months less time in care, and of the cases with a CASA assigned, only .5% re-enter foster care.
- How is a CASA different than a caseworker?
A CASA volunteer is an independent voice, advocating on behalf of one child or sibling group. Generally, a caseworker is employed by The Department of Child and Family Services or other local agencies such as The Baby Fold or The Center for Youth and Family Solutions. Caseworkers generally have dozens of cases they manage at one time, making a comprehensive investigation of each case a challenge at times. The CASA volunteer, however, is appointed specifically to one case and can devote more time advocating for a child or sibling group. The CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker; they are an independent appointee of the court. The CASA volunteer thoroughly examines a child’s case, provides medical, educational, personal, and legal advocacy, explores various community resources for the child and family and makes recommendations to the court.
- What is the difference between the Children's Advocacy Center, CASA and The Child Protection Network?
The CASA program and the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) are both programs housed under McLean County Government that serve different purposes. While CASA volunteers are advocates for children in foster care, the Children's Advocacy Center is there to aid children and families after an allegation of sexual or severe physical abuse has been made.
The Child Protection Network (CPN) is a non-profit entity that provides financial support for the CASA and CAC programs.