CASA First (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the New Mexico First Judicial District believes every child who has been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in our community. To accomplish this, CASA First educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each foster child's needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system. When the state steps in to protect a child's safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what is best for the child.
For children who have been abused or neglected, CASA means having a home instead of feeling lost, and being a priority instead of feeling invisible. Children with CASA volunteers are more likely to end up with their families and, according to National CASA, more likely to receive therapy, health care and education and do better in school, and less likely to be bounced from one place to another or get stuck in long-term foster care. CASA’s vision is to provide a volunteer advocate for every child in need in our community. In 2018, over 170 foster children in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba were matched with CASA volunteers.
For volunteers, CASA is a life-changing experience that makes our community a better place. CASA volunteers come from every walk of life. What they have in common is a commitment to improving children's lives, a willingness to learn, and open minds towards life experiences different from their own. Before they begin their work, volunteers complete an interview, background checks and 30 hours of intensive training and courtroom observation.
After being sworn in by a judge, a volunteer is appointed to a child or family of children and spends an average of 10-15 hours a month, for at least a year, advocating for these children. The volunteer gets to know the child while also gathering information from the child's family, teachers, doctors, care-givers and anyone else involved in the child's life. Judges highly value CASA's recommendations, which help them make informed decisions in the child's best interest.