As a psychology and sociology double major, I did not have much experience with the law and judicial system until the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society provided me with the opportunity to intern with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA is a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers to advocate for abused or neglected dependent children who have come to the attention of the court. CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to identify and express the needs and wishes of the child.
I started my internship CASA in July 2012 and have continued in that position through the summer of 2013. One of the major responsibilities of the CASA volunteer is to aid the child in getting a safe, permanent and loving home as soon as possible. Children can be involved in the legal and social services systems for years. A CASA volunteer is their constant connection through the whole process. As caseworkers, foster homes, schools and other things change, the CASA volunteer is the one person that remains the same in the child’s life during such a difficult time.
As a court appointed party, the volunteer is allowed to gather medical, educational and other information on the child. Among my responsibilities as an intern, I was expected to gather information for CASA volunteers to use in their report to the court. Additionally, I was present for most of the court proceedings, and I accompanied caseworkers on family visits and other meetings regarding the welfare of the child.
My work at CASA—especially my interaction with the families and court system—has provided valuable experience and knowledge and added to the foundation that I’ve been building in the classroom at SU. My education and this experience has allowed me to look at the events playing out in the court room and consider the factors in our society that may have contributed to the events that brought the family to where they are. My experience at CASA allowed me to observe sociological and psychological theories in action.
Working in two different counties, I was able to observe two different court systems along with a variety of service providers and families. It was interesting to observe how the two different court systems operated and how each party involved viewed their role and purpose. Over the past year I was able to identify cycles and patterns within the court proceedings and family dynamics that I believe I would never have had the opportunity to observe without this opportunity. My experience has taught me so much about how laws can protect the rights of children and their families, but it can also hinder them. It was very interesting to see the consequences that families face following the ruling in Family Court. Without the sponsorship of the Arlin Adams Center, I would never have been able to dedicate so much time to this valuable experience.