Q: Who is the CASA/GAL Volunteer?
CASA /GAL volunteers are ordinary citizens who are at least 21 years old. They come from all walks of life, with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. They are male or female and are licensed drivers with dependable transportation. The CASA/GALs have no felony arrest record and pass a background check. They work alongside attorneys and Children's Services Board caseworkers as appointed officers of the court. The CASA/GAL volunteer is charged with being an advocate for a child's best interests in the court system and is appointed by a judge. One thing all CASA/GAL volunteers have in common is their sincere concern for children.
Q: Why are CASA/GAL volunteers needed?
The CASA/GAL concentrates solely on the needs of a child. A CASA/GAL ensures that the best interests of the child, and not just the other parties involved in the case, are spoken for in court. Other participants in the court system, such as the judge, attorneys for the parties, and social workers, are not able to perform this function. All information obtained by the GAL is kept confidential and may be disclosed only to the judge.
The CASA/GAL helps the child to understand the confusing court process, presents that child's needs to the judge, and provides continuity and stability for the child whose future will be determined by the court. The CASA helps to ensure that placements are truly in the child's best interest.
Q: What does a CASA/GAL do?
The CASA/GAL is charged with conducting an independent, on-going investigation. This investigation may include reviewing records and talking with anyone who has information about the child including parents, teachers neighbors, doctors, school officials, and of course, the child.
The CASA/GAL makes home visits and also visits the child if in placement. They maintain close communication with the Children's Services Board caseworker. The CASA/GAL attends all court hearings and reviews regarding the case.
The CASA/GAL prepares a written report for the court. The report includes interview information, a summary and recommendations for the future as to the best interest of the child.
Q. How is a CASA/GAL different from a caseworker?
Miami County Children's Service Board employs a caseworker. While the caseworker often works closely with CASA/GAL, their responsibilities are different.
A caseworker has the primary responsibility for managing a case. They continue to assess the family situation, prepare the case plan, and monitor its progress. They provide placement for children with relatives or in foster homes. The caseworker assists the family with obtaining community resources, provides information to the parent about the child while in placement, and arranges visits.
Q. What is the difference between a CASA/GAL and an Attorney GAL?
In cases involving abused or neglected children, a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the judge. Before the CASA/GAL program, the guardian was generally a lawyer or someone else within the court system.
The CASA/GAL is a preferable solution due to the objectivity provided by someone outside the system that works independently on a volunteer basis. CASA/GALs only accept a handful of cases at a time so they can do a thorough, in-depth investigation in each child's case. Studies have shown the CASA/GAL model to have significant benefits for the child.
Q. How long is a CASA/GAL assigned to a case?
The CASA/GAL is assigned to the case until the case is resolved, when the judge gives permanent or final orders. This can be a matter of months or a matter of years, depending on the case.
Q How many cases does a CASA/GAL have at one time?
The number of cases a CASA/GAL has depends upon the time they have to give, the complexity of the cases, and the number of children involved in each case. Many CASA/GALs work full-time so they are able to conduct one case at a time. However, a retired person may be able to conduct an additional case(s) simply because they have more time to invest. The CASA/GAL retains the right to accept or refuse each case offered.
Q. What kind of training does a CASA/GAL receive?
Volunteers are selected on the basis of the objectivity, competence, and commitment through an application process. Once accepted, volunteers undergo a thorough 30-hour training course. Some of the topics covered are: principles and concepts that guide a volunteer, laws, Children's Services Board, the court system, cultural awareness, domestic violence, poverty, chemical dependency, investigating and interviewing people involved in a case, writing court reports and making effective recommendations.
Q. Do CASA/GALs really make a difference in the lives of children?
Yes! CASA/GAL volunteers provide continuity, advocacy and concern for each child they work alongside. Studies show that children assigned CASA volunteers have fewer moves while in foster placement, receive more services, are visited more and end up in safe, permanent homes quicker than those children without CASA volunteers. Miami County children's lives are improved with the help of a CASA/GAL volunteer!