CASA volunteers help keep children safe

Peggy LarsenWhat makes a good Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, according to Peggy Larson, is someone who has a commitment to helping children.

“They get the reward of knowing they’ve made a difference in a child’s life,” Larson said.

Larson, a CASA Supervisor at the Maleng Regional Justice Center who works with CASA volunteers, has been at King County for 25 years.

“It’s a great job. I love working with our volunteers. They’re such interesting people and they do so much on behalf of the kids,” Larson said.

CASA volunteers play an essential role in the King County justice system. CASA volunteers serve as advocates on dependency cases for children under the age of 12. The court appoints a CASA to serve in the interest of the child when a state social worker files a report of abuse. A CASA will read a child’s case, conduct an investigation separate from social workers and other legal parties, facilitate meetings with families and monitor a child’s living situation.

“They work with all the other people in court. They work with attorneys and assist attorney generals for the state, social workers, they’ll talk to teachers— whoever is involved in that child’s life,” Larson said.

Jana Buss, an Administrative Assistant at King County’s South Treatment Plant, has been CASA volunteer for 10 years.

“I wanted to see volunteer work from a different perspective,” Buss said.

Since Buss works full time, she tries to not take more than one case a month. Larson said CASA is flexible with a volunteer’s schedule.

“Generally it takes about 10-20 hours a month initially. It’s flexible. Some volunteers take multiple cases, and those folks usually have a pretty flexible schedule,” Larson said.

About 350 people volunteer as CASA’s in King County, but Larson said they need more.

“We definitely need more African American CASAS. Twenty-four percent of the children we serve are African American, but only nine percent of our volunteers are African American. So we really would like to increase that,” Larson said.

To become a CASA, a person must go through an application and interview process, a fingerprinting and background check and then complete four days of CASA training. People 21 years or older can apply to be a CASA.

“Some volunteers come from backgrounds related to social work or law, but that’s not required. We have people from all different kinds of backgrounds,” Larson said.

While a CASA’s work can be challenging, helping a child’s life is worth it. For Buss, volunteering as a CASA is her way of promoting a child’s safety.

“It’s making sure the children are safe,” Buss said.

For information on becoming a CASA volunteer, email BEaCASA@kingcounty.gov for a packet or call 206-296-1120.

One Comment on “CASA volunteers help keep children safe

  1. Thank you for the great article on the CASA Program! CASA Volunteers are really the unsung heros of the Child Welfare System – donating thousands of hours each year to advocate for the best interests of children who otherwise have no voice. CASA advocacy was started right here in King County in 1977 by Judge David Soukup – just another Seattle start-up that has gone viral – now there are hundreds of CASA programs across the nation, working hard on behalf of abused and neglected children.