Clark County CASA
CASA MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so that they can thrive in safe, permanent homes.
CASA PROGRAM GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
1. To ensure that the best interest of every abused/neglected child is represented in court.
2. To ensure that every CASA child is placed in a safe, permanent and nurturing home.
3. To ensure that every CASA child achieves permanency in a timely manner.
CLARK COUNTY, LAS VEGAS CASA
In 1980 the Junior League of Las Vegas began an initiative to create a guardian ad litem program for abused and neglected children of Clark County in the Juvenile Justice System – as a private, non-profit agency. The Honorable John Mendoza, District Court Judge, who had been interested in such a program and was presiding over the Juvenile Court at that time, took the lead and established the program at Clark County Juvenile Court Services by facilitating the hiring of a CASA coordinator and a secretary in July 1982. Judge Mendoza was instrumental in creating the acronym CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) which was subsequently adopted by NCASAA.
With the support of the District Court Judges, a domestic relations component of the CASA volunteer concept was initiated as a pilot project in October 1986. In this program, the trained CASA volunteers were utilized to safeguard the best interests of children caught in the midst of custodial disputes.
In April 1990, with only 15 active CASA volunteers, the Juvenile Court CASA Program and the District Court CASA Program undertook a mutually cooperative venture to expand and utilize the same group of CASA volunteers who were recruited, screened and trained to advocate for the children in both arenas. In July 1992, the programs were administratively combined to form the Clark County Family Division CASA Program. In 2008, more than 200 CASA volunteers served over 500 abused and neglected children in the Juvenile Court.
The Nevada Legislature provided for volunteer advocacy representation for children through NRS 432B.500 and 432B.505, such that “the court shall appoint a . . . volunteer” to represent and protect the best interest of the child in cases of child abuse/neglect. Over 2,500 children in Clark County fall within this category. The legislature specified that the volunteer must serve without compensation. The Eighth Judicial District Court authorized the appointment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate through Rule 5.69 such that “the court . . . may appoint a court appointed special advocate for any minor child.”
The Clark County Family Division CASA Program is an innovative program which has received national recognition for its advocacy efforts on behalf of children. Utilizing the National CASA Association guidelines, the CASA Program recruits, screens, trains and supervises volunteers from the local community to serve as advocates for children involved in Court proceedings. The CASA volunteers serve as the children’s voices in Court. Since its inception the CASA Program has shifted its focus to primarily representing the best interest of abused neglected children involved in the child welfare system, rather than children caught in the midst of domestic relations disputes.
The overall goal of the CASA Program is to ensure a child’s right to a safe, permanent and nurturing home through independent assessment of the case facts and the community resources. The primary focus of the CASA Program is child advocacy. This is clearly different from the family restructuring focus of Family Mediation, the child protective intervention focus of the Clark County Department of Family Services or the Children’s Attorney Project (CAP) who represent children’s legal wishes or what the children want. Each of these other agencies is bound by the multiple interests of the family as a whole or to protect the legal rights of the child. Whereas, the CASA Program has the great luxury of concentrating solely on the best interests of the individual child.
With a concern for community awareness/education, the CASA Program actively engages media contacts, participates in agency networking, provides presentations to civic organizations, participates at a wide array of community forums/recruitment fairs and has received numerous community recognitions, to include but not limited to: 1991 and 1994 National Association of Counties Award, a 1992 and 1994 J.C.Penney United Way Golden Rule Award and the 1993 Clark County Bar Association Liberty Bell Award.
From 1980 to the present, the CASA Program has grown from 10 to 210 trained volunteers, serving over 500 children in 2008. The program continues to expand and improve. The CASA Program is an active member of the National CASA Association and The Nevada CASA Association.
The CASA Program is supported by the CASA Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which is governed by a separate Board of Directors. The CASA Foundation was established in June 1983 to promote and support the child advocacy efforts of the Clark County CASA Program by providing fund raising, volunteer recognition, program assistance and public relations activities. Over the years, the CASA Foundation has added another component to their mission and that is to address the children’s special needs, such as dental or medical needs, transportation costs for visits with family members, summer camp, sports, music lessons, and prom attire.