A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, specially trained and supervised, is appointed by a Judge to speak up for a child in foster care. CASA volunteers help to secure safe and permanent homes for abused and neglected children by investigating and monitoring cases involving children in foster care.
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ROLE OF CASA
A CASA volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers are victims of abuse and neglect and are typically in foster care. The volunteer continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that unlike other court principals who often rotate cases, the CASA volunteer is a consistent figure in the proceedings and provides continuity for the child. CASA programs – through recruitment, training, and supervising volunteers – serve as the eyes and ears of the judge in working collaboratively to find safe and permanent, nurturing homes for Louisiana’s most vulnerable children.
Focused exclusively upon the child’s best interest, a CASA volunteer provides individualized one-on-one advocacy. Advocates are recruited from the community and selected for each child to maximize the unique abilities of the advocate. A CASA volunteer works with all agencies and parties involved to gather information and to provide an independent report for the Court with recommendations based solely upon the child’s best interest.
CASA IN THE LOUISIANA CHILDREN'S CODE
The Louisiana Children's Code requires appointed independent counsel for the child (ChC art.607) and authorizes appointment of CASA. The purpose of CASA is outline in Louisiana Children's Code, Articles 424-424.10. Tasked with the role of advocating for the timely placement of children in safe permanent homes, CASA volunteers are sworn in by a judge of the courts and under the supervision of a CASA program each volunteer:
CASA IN FEDERAL LAW
Enacted in 1974, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) required appointment of a "guardian ad litem" in "every case involving an abused or neglected child which results in judicial proceeding." The guadian ad litem (GAL) can be "an attorney or a court appointed special advocate (or both)" for the child and must obtain a first-hand understanding of the child's situation and needs and make recommendations to the court concerning the child's best interests. The Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 states that a "Court-appointed special advocate shall be available to every victim of child abuse or neglect in the United States that needs such an advocate."
WHY DOES A CHILD NEED BOTH A CASA VOLUNTEER AND AN ATTORNEY
A child's attorney provides legal representation and in Louisiana, children's attorneys are "client directed" and must advocate for the wishes of their child client. CASA volunteers advocate for the beest interest of the child to whom the volunteer is assigned, which may or may not be in line with the child's wishes. Each child's attorney meets reqularly with their child client, but each attorney typically represents many children. A CASA volunteer is assigned to only one or two children and is able to spend significantly more time to gather information about the child and the child's family. If a court had to pay an attorney to do this job, it would be too costly. The CASA volunteer and the child's attorney can work as a team to represent the best interest of the child.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CASA VOLUNTEER AND A SOCIAL WORKER
Like child attorneys, social workers work many cases at one time. The CASA volunteer, who serves an average of only two children at a time, does not replace a social worker on a case but works in conjunction with social services to ensure the best possible outcomes for the child. The roles are not the same. The CASA volunteer is independent from the social services system and focuses primarily on the child. The Department of Children and Family Services caseworker serves the family- parents and child- by providing direct services. Caseworkers are not able to be a wholly independent voice because they are part of the agency that has already taken a position in the case by filing a petition and brining the matter to court. A CASA volunteer is an independent voice, not part of a government agency that may be constrained by rules and regulations, agency policies, and fiscal limitations.