Washington State CASA Programs
We staff information tables, speak at community events, and use social media to share information about the needs of foster children and invite community members to become CASA volunteers. Through our website, we gather potential volunteer requests and forward them to the appropriate local program.
We provide thirty-hour core training sessions for new CASA volunteers so they are eligible to be certified by judges and assigned as advocates for foster children. As continuing education for CASAs, we offer Educational Advocacy classes and Child Safety Framework training for CASA volunteers. We also host our annual conference that offers 75 sessions of continuing education for program staff and CASA volunteers.
We spearhead Advocacy Day to connect local programs with legislators and advocate for foster children’s needs. We also attend monthly Child Welfare Advisory Committee meetings to discuss legislation and share information about issues related to foster youth across the state.
We assist local programs in collecting a core data set as a basis to ensure program quality. In other support, we provide Title IV-E Training to help local programs apply for federal matching funds for child welfare activities, offer Flex Learning (non-classroom training) to volunteers who cannot attend in-person, and assist local programs with National CASA accreditation and standards compliance.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
As part of our initiative to use data to evaluate the effectiveness of CASAs in dependency cases, we formed an Outcomes Working Group to define the core data set programs collect and analyze to articulate the effectiveness of CASA intervention. Lessons learned from this year’s meetings have helped inform and identify current program needs and provide groundwork for future evaluations and program development. Through the work of the OWG, local programs have been able to shape data tracking through the lens of their first-hand experience working with CASAs and children.
Our main challenge remains supporting local programs by recruiting and training enough CASAs so that the all children in dependency who want a CASA have one. According to Kidscount, during 2011, Washington State had 9,922 children in foster care, and that number remains consistent today. Currently, 2,300 CASA volunteers are serving 6,874 children. The remaining 3,048 children, most of whom are adolescents, navigate the labyrinth of state foster care on their own, or with paid guardians ad litem, each of whom represents approximately 100 children. Our goal is to close this gap by 2020, if not sooner.