The Dollars and Sense of CASA Volunteers

CASA volunteers save hundreds of millions of dollars in child welfare costs alone. The annual survey of CASA programs shows that children with CASA volunteers spend 7.5 months less in foster care than children in the general foster care population. It costs the federal government $3,250 per month to keep a child in the foster care system. Every child with a CASA volunteer saves the taxpayer approximately $24,375 per year.

For the 240,000 children served by CASA volunteers in 2010, this represents a savings of $5.850 billion in unnecessary foster care costs.

Put another way, federal funding for CASA for Children reaps a 30 to 1 return on investment. A single grant-funded CASA program staff person supports 30 trained volunteer workers serving as many as 75 children within a year. In 2010, an estimated 75,000 volunteers provided 5.8 million advocacy hours for 240,000 children. If those volunteers had been compensated, their service represents the equivalent of $300 million in taxpayer dollars– but CASA volunteers provide their services for free.

In all this talk of money, let’s not lose sight of the children we serve. So let’s talk about what those dollars mean in the life of a child – a child who has been neglected or abused.

Every day a child spends “in the system” is a day they can never get back. Imagine spending 7.5 additional months without a permanent home. Never knowing whether you’ll have to pack up your belongings and move to another placement. Never knowing whether it’s OK to settle in and get to know your teacher. To make friends. To plan for summer vacation. All those extra months wondering what will happen next.

All children deserve a safe, nurturing permanent home. A child with a CASA volunteer has a much better chance of finding that home—that “forever family”—sooner. Federal investment in CASA for Children is tiny. The impact of that investment is huge.

Michael Piraino, CEO of National CASA

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