The Problem: Overwhelmed Systems

Child welfare systems are in a state of crisis, partly due to a devastating opioid epidemic combined with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Here in Nashville, we’ve also had issues due to the 2020 Super Tuesday tornadoes, civil unrest, the Christmas Day bombing, and flooding that have compounded the needs of families in our community. Cases are more complex; families are struggling to survive. The most vulnerable in our community are suffering the most.


The average child in foster care spends more than a year in care


Estimated number of children in Davidson County alone in foster care on any given day


Cases held by each DCS caseworker

The Solution: Advocates from the Community

  • Volunteer advocates are screened, trained and supported by CASA program staff.
  • CASA volunteers form a one-on-one relationship with a child and get a full picture of the case
  • CASA volunteers stay with a child until the case completes and the child can return to their family or can be placed in a safe, permanent home.
  • Judges depend on Casa volunteers for critical information to help them make the most well-informed decisions.
  • CASA volunteers are able to dedicate more individual time to each child’s case, learning the intricacies, complexities, and needs of children and their families in a meaningful way.

Abuse, neglect and other trauma can mark a child for life.

Without developing resiliency, trauma from abuse and neglect during childhood can cause an adult to be more vulnerable to negative outcomes like homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, and even physical health issues. Physical abuse and neglect are two of a number of highly stressful, potentially traumatic experiences known as “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs).


Tennessee prison population reported to have 5 or more ACEs


Reduced life span (years) for a person with 7 or more ACEs compared to those with lower ACE scores


Number of U.S. children per 1,000 who were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect (2017)

But, having a stable relationship with a supportive adult can help children do well, even when they have faced significant hardships.

  • CASA volunteers are trained to understand the impact of trauma on children.
  • They spend time with children and the people in their lives. They talk to service providers, teachers and social workers to gather information that will help them make informed recommendations to the court.
  • Based on what they learn, our volunteers also advocate for services that promote healing, that help children develop resilience without causing additional trauma.
  • They encourage services that strengthen parents’ relationships with their children.

View The Research

CASA saves tax dollars.

Casa volunteers work to build resiliency in children and their families to help them combat the long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and stop the cycle of abuse. This saves tax dollars that would otherwise be used for rehabilitation, probation, homelessness, and other social issues that people experience later in life due to early traumatic events.

CASA Nashville has about 200 Volunteer Advocates who donate around 2,400 hours of their time each year to helping children in the foster care system. Training and supporting one CASA volunteer costs around $1,200 per year; much less than it costs to have a child in foster care for even one month!

CASA reduces the burden on the social services, child welfare and criminal systems.

Studies have shown that building resiliency requires connection to a caring, healthy adult. Just one caring adult can make all the difference! CASA volunteers commit to being that person in the life of a child, sticking with them no matter what. This reduces the burden on the social services system, the child welfare system, and the juvenile and adult criminal systems.

Judges are more likely to assign CASA volunteers to their most complex, serious cases – cases in which children are at higher risk of poor outcomes.

Richard Kennedy, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, speaks about the importance of the work CASA does and how CASA volunteers save the child welfare system money each year.

CASA Volunteer Advocates want to make certain the voices of abused and neglected children are heard in an over-burdened child welfare system.

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