While many are inspired by the difference a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer can make in a child’s life, committing to this volunteer role could be daunting for some, especially those who are employed full-time. However, the time commitment, while meaningful, may be less than you think. On average, our CASAs report spending about 10 to 15 hours per month on their cases. This time includes visiting the child; communicating with other involved professionals, such as teachers and social workers; and writing a court report for the judge. With proper time management and the right motivation, many adults, even those working 40 hours a week, can succeed as CASAs.
To illustrate this point, we picked the brains of a few of our CASAs who are currently balancing work and volunteering about what a full-time employee can expect when they become a CASA volunteer.
Setting Employer Expectations
One of the best ways to overcome any potential challenges that may arise from volunteering as a CASA is by setting those expectations with your employer early. One CASA, Sharon Schendel, shared, “I was upfront with my employer that I am a CASA, and they’ve been very supportive of this commitment.”
Although there’s a good chance your employer will be supportive of your CASA journey, as long as you are forthright and communicate your CASA commitments well in advance, you should be able to avoid any future issues.
“With daytime events, like court hearings or even [continuing education], it takes some work to switch around days or take mornings off to make sure I can attend, but generally there’s a good amount of notice to facilitate that,” explained CASA Meredith Clancy.
Ultimately, you’ll want to work with your employer to make sure that you can fulfill your CASA commitments while managing your workload. CASA Tatiana Ruiz shared that working together with her supervisor has helped her be there for her case child: “Being able to leave for last minute CFTs [child and family team meetings] or attending continuing educations, as those usually happen during my work hours, [has been a challenge]. Trying to coordinate ahead of time with my supervisor to see if I can step away from work for some time or change my schedule, if needed, has helped a lot.”
Balancing Work and Volunteering
Once your employer is on board, being able to balance work and volunteering boils down to time management. CASA Sharon explains how she balances the two, “I typically take care of CASA-related business on the weekends, but my schedule is flexible and allows me to address issues that arise during the work week.”
Of course, it helps when you can coordinate with your case child’s schedule, too. For CASA Meredith, her case child’s school schedule aligns with her work schedule, so they both have their free time during evenings and weekends. She shared, “Being a CASA of a school-aged kid can work really well with a full-time job, as you have the same evenings and weekends free to get together with your [case] kid. It takes some planning, but it can be done.”
Organization is also key. “You just need to be highly organized and willing to give up personal time for a cause greater than yourself,” shared CASA Sarah Norton.
For many CASAs, the biggest time investment is made during the Advocate University (AU) training. “Working in education, I did training during my summer time off,” shared CASA Tianna Wolin. She adds, “Caregivers have been very flexible with visits.”
CASA Tatiana reminds you, “Be open and honest with your employer about being a CASA and the commitment. My employer is very supportive of me being a CASA and it allows me to coordinate going to CFTs, court hearings, and making phone calls during work hours as long as it does not interfere with work obligations.”
For many children in foster care, just having that person who cares in their corner makes all the difference. “Every time I worry I haven’t been putting in enough time on my CASA child’s case, I meet up with her and we talk and I realize that any time I’m giving her is 100 percent better than she’s had,” says CASA Meredith. “She’s always so grateful and excited that I’m there just for her. I realize it doesn’t matter if I can give five hours or one hour, she’s grateful for the time I can give, and I am doubly repaid by my ability to be that part of her life.”
Consider Becoming a CASA!
Being a CASA while working full-time is doable. Our volunteers find great fulfillment from their experience giving back as CASAs. You, too, can be that consistent presence in a child’s life, the one they can count on to guide them through this difficult time of transition.
Wherever you find yourself in the process of becoming a CASA, find out what your next steps are by visiting our volunteer page.