Douglas County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive advocacy for abused and neglected children who are in need of care and under the protection of the court system. Research has shown that kids assigned a CASA volunteer are more likely to do well in school and graduate and are less likely to reenter the court system. Contact with a supportive adult is the key element in improving circumstances.

Erick Vaughn, the new director of Douglas County CASA, noted that the pandemic has had a significant impact on an organization that relies heavily on volunteers. Presently, there are eighty active volunteers and volunteers in training. There is a pressing need for twenty-five additional volunteers as there is a large waiting list of children in need of assistance.

CASA volunteers are appointed by the court and meet regularly with the child. They review records and talk to family members and professionals involved in the case. Volunteers report information to the judge, make recommendations to promote the child’s best interest, and monitor compliance with court orders until the child has been placed in a safe and permanent home.

Volunteers must avoid further trauma for the child and help build resilience. Kids that have experienced neglect and abuse are especially vulnerable; sex trafficking is a particular threat to these kids. Unfortunately, the privatization of state child welfare services has contributed to the problem.

Volunteers are carefully vetted and undergo thirty hours of training and an additional twelve hours of advanced annual training. They come from all walks of life. They must be compassionate, culturally sensitive, and unbiased. Volunteers should be well-organized, and have good recordkeeping and computer skills. They must be reliable and make a good match with the child. A volunteer application form is available on the CASA website.