How to Start a Local Program
CASA programs don’t just happen. They are created when a community is ready with three key ingredients: 1) a committed judge or group of judges; 2) a supportive community of individuals who are willing to work to create and build a program; and 3) resources. It takes careful consideration, planning, communication, and financial support to begin a program. In starting a CASA program, it is important to identify relatively reliable sources of funds to sustain the program over time. In Wisconsin, CASA programs raise charitable contributions for at least half of every dollar they spend to serve kids, so the ongoing need to raise sufficient charitable dollars is a significant duty of most CASA Program directors. At the same time, CASA programs are unusually cost effective and not expensive to operate, enabling volunteers and staff together to effectively raise the necessary resources.
Wisconsin has tremendous room for growth in CASA programs; only 10 counties currently have CASA services; this means that most kids in 62 counties have no access to Court Appointed Special Advocates. We welcome new programs to our network and with the understanding that it will require effort and commitment, the Wisconsin CASA Association and its member programs support thoughtful community efforts to start a program.
New programs needed and welcomed
The Wisconsin CASA Association and its member agencies will assist judges and communities wishing to launch a CASA program, provided interested judges; committed community leaders; and financial resources can be brought together effectively.
Though expenses will vary based upon contributed resources, a reasonable budget for annual operation of a CASA program is approximately $50,000 to $60,000 annually. Costs are primarily the salary and benefits of a staff member who will recruit, train and supervise volunteers, and ensure that the National CASA standards are met so that children receive quality services. Also essential are office and training space, phones, computer, copy capability, postage, travel and training and meeting expenses. While a program may be started for less, it is essential that the new program have a source of sustaining funds, either public, private or both. First year costs may be considerably less.
One CASA staff member can supervise a group of volunteers who are serving up to 30 families. Their duties include recruiting, screening, training and supervising volunteers; maintaining the professional and community relationships necessary to operate the program effectively; record keeping and reporting; fund raising; public relations and communications; and participating in the statewide network of professionals that comprise the membership of the Wisconsin CASA Association.
There is an application process that formally begins by contacting the National CASA Association, but if you are considering launching a program, first read the material on the National CASA website, and feel free to contact the Wisconsin CASA Association to discuss your interest.