Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Time Does It Take?
We won't kid you. Being a CAJA volunteer is a serious commitment - both in time and emotional energy. Generally, after the 40-hour CORE training program, volunteers spend between 7-10 hours per month on their case. Except for court appearances, most work can be done at a time most convenient for the volunteer.

How do I know if I would be good at it? You won't know until you try.

Seriously, before beginning the training, prospective volunteers are screened by CAJA personnel for their objectivity, communications skills, ability to work with people, and commitment to helping children. After learning more about the program, some prospective volunteers self-select themselves out of the advocate program, but still support the CAJA concept financially and through membership in CAJA Friends. As a CAJA volunteer, you will encounter situations that make you feel sad enough to cry, angry enough to lash out, and hopeless enough to quit. But if ordinary citizens aren't willing to stand up for children in our community, then who is? No matter how frustrating the job may seem at times, CAJA volunteers DO make a difference in the lives of children who often have no other voice.

Can I support the program without becoming a CAJA?
YES! CAJA Friends Inc. is chartered as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to fundraising for and community awareness about the CAJA program. CAJA Friends supports the Madison County CAJA program with grants and community awareness programs. Memberships are available at several levels.

What is a CAJA's role?

Fact-finder, Investigator - The CAJA conducts an independent investigation, including research and examination of the issues and elements of the case. The CAJA talks with the parents, relatives, child, school officials, social workers, therapists and others with information about the child's circumstances, reviews all relevant records, and researches available community resources that have information about the child.

Advocate - The CAJA notifies the court of all information relevant to the child's best interests and makes specific recommendations to the court that would serve the child's well-being. The CAJA attends all court hearings to represent and protect the best interest of the child.

Facilitator - The CAJA facilitates agreement between the parties and attorneys and works for resolution of the problems presented to the court. The CAJA promotes and makes recommendations regarding essential services to the child and family.

Monitor and Reporter - The CAJA monitors the court's orders to assure compliance, reports back to the court when there is non-compliance, and assesses and reports to the court regarding the child's adjustment to placement.

How does a CAJA investigate a case?
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.

How does the role of a CAJA differ from an attorney?
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.

Is CAJA a nationwide organization?
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.

How do I become a CAJA?
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.
about us
"CAJA of Madison County trains, supervises, and supports community volunteers who advocate for the best interests of children in court."
CAJA is the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens as officers of the court. In an overburdened social welfare system, abused and neglected children often slip through the cracks among hundreds of current cases. CAJA volunteers change that. Appointed by judges, CAJA volunteers typically handle just one case at a time—and commit to staying on that case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. While others may come and go, CAJA volunteers provide that one constant that children need in order to thrive.