About Heart of Missouri CASA

Every year, more than 600 abused and neglected children in Boone and Callaway Counties pass through the Family Court System because they are unable to live safely at home. Imagine what it would be like to lose your parents, not because of something you did, but because they cannot or will not take care of you. Now, into these children’s lives come dozens of strangers: police, foster parents, therapists, social workers, judges, lawyers and more. Hopefully, one of these strangers is a CASA volunteer. CASA volunteers watch over and advocate for these abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home. They stay with each case until it is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence—the one adult who cares only for their best interest.

Since our founding in 2005, we have trained 305 Heart of Missouri CASA volunteers.  Those volunteers have served 620 children.

The CASA Volunteer

Heart of Missouri CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) believes that all children have the right to safe, healthy, stable homes, free from abuse and neglect. A CASA volunteer, serving as a court-appointed advocate, is trained to promote and pursue the best interest of an abused or neglected child in court, and prevents the child from getting lost in the system by being sensitive to the child’s needs and presenting these needs in court.

The role of the CASA volunteer in a child abuse or neglect case is to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case, make an independent evaluation with recommendations regarding actions the CASA believes are in the child’s best interest – both short and long term, and to monitor the case until a permanent placement is achieved. Through these advocacy efforts, CASA is working with the Court to ensure that every child has a chance for a brighter future.

Heart of Missouri CASA Staff

Executive Director
Boone County Program Director
Callaway County Program Director
Volunteer Coordinator

Heart of Missouri CASA Board Members

Ashley Hester
Embark Group - RE/MAX Boone Realty
Jose Caldera
Missouri Secretary of State's Office
Carl Edwards Sr.
Emily Little
Ford, Parshall & Baker
Mark Kennedy
Midway Arms
Traci Kennedy
American Non-Smoker's Rights Foundation
Krista Meyer
Missouri State Teachers Association
Jorgen Schlemeier
Gamble & Schlemeier
Janice Smith
High Road School of Boone County

Frequently Asked Questions About CASA

After extensive training, the CASA volunteer is sworn in as an officer of the court by a Judge and is assigned to an abuse or neglect case by a CASA Supervisor. The CASA volunteer then begins the process of understanding all the details of the child’s case, from reviewing documents to interviewing everyone involved, to meeting the child and his or her family. After compiling all of the information, the CASA makes a recommendation to the Court as to what the CASA believes is in the best interest of the child. Moreover, the CASA volunteer can suggest and help implement services that the child or family might need. The CASA volunteer continues to monitor the case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home and the case is closed.

Case workers are employed by the Missouri Department of Social Services – Children’s Division. They handle many cases at one time and are responsible for helping an entire family, which includes setting up individual services for family members. The CASA volunteer is not paid, works on only one case at a time, is an advocate for the child, and does not set up services. The CASA volunteer does not replace the case worker; he or she is an independent officer of the court who works with the case worker, and other team members, to act in the child’s best interests.
The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation for the child in the courtroom; he or she does not replace the attorney on a case.

Heart of Missouri CASA has considerable respect within the child welfare system. Case workers, attorneys, teachers, physicians and other professionals are willing to cooperate with our advocates because they know our volunteers undergo extensive training and maintain objectivity as officers of the court. Nationally, CASA has been endorsed by the American Bar Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. In 2007, the Missouri Bar Association’s Young Lawyers of Boone County hosted a golf tournament that raised funds for local and statewide CASA programs.

CASA is a priority project of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program. The office provides partial funding for the National CASA Association and encourages the formation of new CASA programs throughout the country. The Missouri state legislature passed House Bill 107, creating the Missouri CASA fund, in 2001. Disbursements from the fund began in 2003. In 2007, the Missouri House of Representatives added CASA to their court budget giving each local program an additional $5,000.

CASA volunteers are ordinary people who are concerned about the happiness and safety of all children. You do not need a social work background or legal expertise to be a good advocate, but you do need to be committed to your case and willing to fight for what is in the child’s best interest. Part of the CASA program’s success has been its diversity of volunteers—full-time workers and stay-at-home parents, retirees and college students, people of all races, religions, and economic backgrounds who want to make a difference in the life of a child. We do require that our volunteers are 21 or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and successfully pass our background screening, but all other skills and knowledge are taught in our extensive training program.