To prepare a recommendation, the CAJA volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers, and others that are knowledgeable about the child's history. The CAJA has a court order that allows them to review all records pertaining to the child -- school, medical and case worker reports, and other documents. </
How does a CAJA differ from a social service case worker?
The CAJA program's main purpose is securing safety and permanence for the children. The independent CAJA volunteer has but one goal: to determine what decisions would be in the child's best interests, ensuring that the fact-based report includes recommendations that reflect those actions or decisions for the judge to consider. Social workers are employed by the state. They often have 18 to 30 cases at a time and are frequently unable to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each. The CAJA volunteer has more time and only one or two cases. After thoroughly examining a child's case, the CAJA can make a recommendation to the court independent of state agency restrictions.
The CAJA does NOT provide legal representation in the courtroom. That is the role of the court appointed attorney or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL).
Do the courts support the CAJA program?
Yes. Only a judge can assign a CAJA and only a judge can dismiss a CAJA volunteer. The CASA / CAJA organization has been endorsed by the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the US Department of Justice.
The Madison County CAJA program is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
Association. There are over 38,000 trained volunteers nationwide with programs in all 50 states. The program started in 1977 in Seattle, Washington in 1977 by Superior Court Judge David Soukup who saw a recurring problem in his courtroom – simply stated, he didn't feel he was getting sufficient information to make the right decisions.
All volunteers must undergo a 40-hour court approved training course. Prior to training, all prospective volunteers must complete and return an application form and three (3) Authorization for Reference Check forms (References should include: Two (2) personal references and one (1) professional reference (should be your employer if you are employed). Prospective volunteers will schedule a pre-training interview and undergo an extensive background check.