Texas CASA launched a groundbreaking statewide study, called the Child Outcomes and Volunteer Effectiveness (COVE) project, to better understand the contributions CASA volunteer advocates make in the lives of the children they serve.
The COVE project consists of four studies that will evaluate the effects that CASA services have on the safety, permanency, and well-being of Texas children within the Texas foster care system. Through the COVE project, we hope to not only determine the extent to which CASA services improve outcomes for children, but also to identify the factors that enhance or limit the effective implementation of CASA services.
Selection Bias Study
The first of the four planned studies focuses on Selection Bias. In this study, we compared child-, family-, and case level characteristics of children for whom the judge appointed a CASA volunteer; to characteristics of children for whom no CASA volunteer was appointed. By looking at the characteristics of children assigned and not assigned a CASA volunteer, we will be able to develop a robust description of the children served by CASA that can be used to further support volunteer training and program development. Additionally, this study lays the technical foundation for subsequent studies designed to provide evidence of CASA volunteer effectiveness in improving the outcomes for children in state care.
The research for the Selection Bias Study centered on a cohort of children who entered substitute care in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. The research indicates that there are child-, family-, and case-level differences between children for whom the judge appointed a CASA volunteer and those for whom no CASA was appointed.
Ultimately, the research shows that CASA-appointed cases involve a greater degree of severity or complexity. Cases significantly more likely to get a CASA include those involving:
- children in larger sibling groups;
- children who experience more types of maltreatment leading to removal;
- older children;
- a higher number of caregiver risk factors, or more prior CPS investigations; and
- indications of past or current domestic violence in the home (Figure 1).
In addition, children in a community where the local CASA program is able to provide services to a high proportion of the children in substitute care are more likely to be appointed a CASA volunteer advocate.
Conversely, CASA advocates are less likely to be appointed by the court to cases involving:
- children whose initial placements are relatives’ homes or kinship placements.
The results are consistent with judges’ surveys that report that CASA volunteers are typically assigned to the most complex or serious cases.
Following the Selection Bias Study will be additional, intensive studies focusing on child outcomes, volunteer effectiveness, and implementation of CASA services. The Selection Bias Study provides a foundation for the remainder of the child outcome studies, as previous CASA outcomes studies have been compromised by selection bias.
The Child Outcomes and Volunteer Effectiveness (COVE) research project was sponsored by Texas CASA and CASA programs throughout Texas, National CASA, the Meadows Foundation, and the RGK Foundation; and designed and directed by Dr. Cynthia Osborne and the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Texas CASA and the CASA programs participated in design and interpretation of results. Of critical importance, the Department of Family Protective Services and local CASA programs throughout the state provided the data.
Thank you to all of the programs for providing the information used in this study. Your support has been indispensable in the success of the study so far. We would also like to recognize the programs who were a part of the Coalition and devoted many hours to making this study possible.
- Child Advocates San Antonio
- Dallas CASA
- CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County
- CASA for Hunt County
- Child Advocates of Fort Bend
- CASA of Ellis County
- CASA of Hidalgo County
- CASA of the South Plains