Question about CASA..

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by LittleDudesMom, Feb 20, 2010.

  1. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Is anyone familiar with the CASA program (court appointed special advocates)? Anyone work with them going through an adoption or foster situation?

    I am thinking about going through the screening and training to become an advocate here in my city and just wondering if anyone had experience with the program. One of the reasons I was attracted to this program is that the advocate contacts everyone the child is in contact with (school, fosters, social workers, family members, etc.) then spends time with the child before making a recommendation to the judge. It's seems a very comprehensive way to ensure what is best for an abused or neglected child.


  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Sharon, I've never been a member, but I have written an article or two about it (many yrs ago) and had a friend who was a member. Mostly, they tend to work from an opposite philosophy than soc. wkers, often recommending that a child be removed from the home due to abuse. I don't know about now, but yrs ago, soc wkers were all about reuniting, no matter what. It was like they were blind. Finally, when too many kids were dying or being outright killed, the public rose up and demanded explanations and soc wkrs pd more attention.
    CASA wkrs don't have as big a case load, and really did and do work to benefit the child. And the judges listened to them.
    Best of luck!
  3. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Sharon, CASA is a remarkable program. wm's CASA worker has been doing her job for 30 plus years & really watches out for wm & his needs.

    She grasps the entire situation; looks at the big picture whereas the other professionals are all about wm. CASA worker is supposed to keep the big picture - the family affected - in mind.

    I have a great deal of respect for these workers ~ they aren't supposed to accept gifts but I make wm's advocate cookies each year at Christmas (missed this year & last tho).
  4. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It's a volunteer position which, they say, requires no more than 10 hours a month (you only work with one child at a time). I guess I was wondering how much they are respected by the courts. Looking at my temprement and personality, my concern would be attachment and ongoing concern for the child.....

  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I think you should go for it, LDM. We did not have a CASA worker involved because difficult child's issues didn't involve any allegations of abuse by me. However I frequent another forum where some parents have been accused of it (sometimes falsely) and CASA workers were assigned. The forum is sectioned into what state and jurisdiction people are in so the experience would reflect our state laws and policies. Just like with GAL's, training is very minimmal and in my humble opinion, the effectiveness is as good as the wisdom and insight and efforts of the actual person. That's why I think you should do it.

    As someone who has had to deal with the other people from various agencies in the system, I would like to point out and ask you to keep in mind, that when there are various people assigned to deal with different segments of the situation, many times no one person ends up with all the information and therefore, recommendations get based on less than a complete picture. For instance, difficult child's GAL took a stance that he gets in trouble whenever he's living at home with me therefore maybe he should live somewhere else. DSS now is REQUIRED to place a minor with a family member if they can find one willing to take the minor. If difficult child hadn't been committed to Department of Juvenile Justice and a different judge had been involved, it could have been determined that difficult child should be turned over to DSS, without anyone considering that with what DSS is required to do, difficult child would have ended up in a home much less desirable than the home I provide. It doesn't work like a true custody case where someone is actualkly investigating and deciding which of these two options available to the courts is the best one for the child. And that's the frightening part for parents. (I'd like to point out that ALL difficult child's arrests occurred in late winter/early spring, coincidentally while school was in session yet no one seemed to blame the school for it or suggest that he should be removed from school. LOL!)

    But to answer your question- J&DR judges here have a lot of leeway in who they listen to in court and the recommendations they follow. If the minor is in trouble and has a PO, they usually take those recommendations no matter if there is a GAL and/or CASA worker involved. But from what I read and hear, CASA workers' recommendations are followed many times but most certainly, always listened to. Now how many times that CASA worker (being a volunteer layman) gets intimidated by the GAL (an attny) into thinking what the GAL says is gospel, I don't know. It's my understanding that CASA workers are only assigned in this state when there are allegations of abuse or neglect- they are not assigned in cases where these are not an issue to the best of my knowledge. I can tell you that some GAL's flat out lie about what they have checked into and tell others "ABC happened" when they really do not know for sure if it did or didn't because they didn't really investigate like they are supposed to- they have legal authority to contact and look at sd records, any kind of health record, etc. so people assume they looked into this stuff, when they really might have only heard it from an estranged family member. So if a CASA worker hears it from a GAL, then does the CASA worker assume the GAL knows it to be fact?

    Specific to my difficult child, we had the GAL and someone from DSS at times (not CPS but a different dept.) and the DSS worker was good and did see the big picture and being considered just as professional as the GAL, fortunately listened to by the judge, but not listened to by the GAL. Laws, policies and funding for each separate agency plays into this a WHOLE lot. I just visualize a CASA worker thinking a child might be better off in a therapuetic foster home, for example, so recommending that to the judge. But since that probably isn't available or allowed as a first step, the judge just gets the point that the child should be removed from home and turns the child over to DSS where the child is placed with a family member who is worse than the parent.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2010
  6. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    Never had a personal experience with it but I know they do some wonderful work and are very dedicated. My sister in law's mom did this for many years before she died. She had a Masters in Education but did this on a volunteer basis and I know she did a lot for the kids in a children's home that was affiliated with her church.
  7. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Sharon, since it's only one child at a time it's a workable situation for you. Here, by law, the CASA has to be updated & have all the information that other workers for the child has...all the psychiatric reports, the IEP, case reports, crisis plans. Additionally, they must have access to meet with the child at any given time.

    There are generally quarterly staffing that the advocate attends so she can update the court. The courts here, take an advocates input very seriously. In some cases, maybe too seriously if the advocate becomes too personally involved.
  8. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    From what I understand through my research, you are assigned a case and then work on that until it is resolved in court. Could be six months or it could be two years.

    The application process is pretty comprehensive. They require you to write a autobiographical essay as part of the process. Apparently a huge part of the job is written reports and the oral presentation of your information in court. They want to make sure you are able to express yourself! Well, you all know I don't have a problem with lengthy writing, and those who know me a little more intimately know I don't have a problem talking either!

    And k, you are right. The CASA workers in our state handle absuse/neglect cases.

    I think I'm leaning toward applying. I'll keep you posted.

  9. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I spent three years as a GAL which is the equivalent of CASA. Although in Florida you can and often do get requested to take multiple cases, you can refuse to add a second or a third to your plate. Where we live there is a huge shortage of trained volunteers and an overwhelming need for help.

    After three years I decided to move on to a Statewide committee in lieu of continuting with the local courts. CASA will provide you with an opportunity to make a difference working "in the best interests of the child". Some cases are short. Others can continue literally for years. The time invested varies greatly and the emotional investment can, on occasion, be huge. In a number of cases my recommendations were contrary to DCF which was a bit "hairy". In every single case, however, the Judge not only studied my report and recommendations with an open mind but ruled in agreement with my GAL position.

    Because GAL and CASA volunteers are not trained social workers there are a few who are off target but from my personal experience the vast majority are dependable caring citizens who sincerely advocate for the child. Keeping the appropriate distance is hard to do as Warrior Moms tend to want to save the child by incorporating him/her into their normal life. Not.
    Also (not to be negative...just truthful) GALs and Casa members have to do home visits and interview everyone who is part of the child's life. Sometimes it is a bit intimidating to visit
    neighborhoods so unlike your own.

    All in all. Go for it. You can make a difference. DDD
  10. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I've gotten the CASA application for my county the past two years, but have yet to send it in. I do know they are well respected by the courts, at least in my locality. My concern is that I would be unable to remain emotionally detached enough to help whatever clients I am assigned. I think I need a couple more years away from my own situation, before volunteering.
  11. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I thought about it,, too, Crazy and LDM, as far as possibly doing it if the self-employment thing works out and after difficult child gets transitioned back- assuming that goes well. But I'd have to get over my excess baggage from what I know about difficult child's GAL because I don't know when it would be a good thing or a bad thing that I wouldn't automatically believe what the others in the system told me about the case. (For those not aware, in this state GAL's are legally required to be licensed attny's and they are paid but not much so typcally, not always, they are attny's who are newly licensed, young, and don't know diddly because they have no kids over the age of 5yo and get, I think, about 6 hours of training covering 8 subjects or something like that in order to qualify. I think, but am not positive, that there are cases where the child gets both a GAL and CASA worker and I just visualize the GAL trying to tell the CASA so-called facts when in reality, the GAL has never even checked them out. I would want to save a neglected or abused child, but would also want to make sure I wasn't encouraging a child's removal from home if I believed the parent was accused falsely and really just a warrior parent to a difficult child. And things like checking sd records- the GAL takes every word in them as gospel, while I would look at them and know how sd's can document things to cover their own rears without caring if they blame the parent or not.)

    That isn't meant to discourage you, LDM. To the contrary I think those families would benefit a great deal from having a warrior mom who's had to advocate for her own child in there taking a look at things.

    I had told the judge before that if difficult child gets straightened out, I will foster a boy difficult child a couple of years younger then him. That might be the best way for me to help kids.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  12. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    DDD, thanks for the information. As klmno mentioned, in our state a GAL and a CASA are different. The CASA is volunteer and only works on cases of abuse or neglect. The GALs must be attorneys and are assigned to all situations.

    The emotional attachment is one thing I think about, but I would do my besst to try and keep the "big picture" always in the forefront.

    I live in the city, not the suburbs. I work in the city, not in the business district, but in an area those in the suburbs would consider "questionable". I own rental property that includes some section 8. Though I live in an big old historical home, I live very close to the types of some of homes I would be visiting. While I grew up privilaged, I struggled without the financial and emotional support of family for many years after my parents removed me from college. I lived through situations both emotional and physical that I would never want either of my children to live. Today, I live in a lovely home, drive a nice car, have everything I need and most everything I want. However, my eyes are not rosey and I am very much aware of the down and dirtiness life can sometimes be. I hope those factors will help when faced with a child's sad reality.

    So I called a couple folks that I am asking to be my references and taked to my sister in law who worked as a magistrate here in the city for years....I'm moving forward and have decided to move forward with the application.

    Thanks for all your support and I'll keep you posted. This process appears to be very detailed and it will probably take several months before I know anything and then I would have to go through all the training....


  13. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    LDM, question- is a CASA worker assigned only AFTER abuse or neglect have been proven in court? If so, that's one thing. I was assuming they got assigned at the legal allegation, which is what would be the sticky area to me. The GAL would assume the allegations are true in almost every case and I would think some (not all) might pressure a CASA to approach the situation and make recommendations as if the allegations were true, when they really might not be and it hasn't been proven yet. Even if they know the child has been abused, they could be barking up the wrong tree by blaming an immediate family member when it could be a distant family member or family "friend" that no one has figured out did it yet.
  14. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    K, a CASA is assigned to a child who has been the victim of abuse and neglect and have become a ward of the state.
  15. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    LDM, I think you should go for it. What is the worst they can say - no?

    FWIW we have a CASA who lives next door to us. She really GETS the kids. She was wishing that she could be assigned way back when, because she really saw what was going on, long before the kids started living here full time. However we all knew she was already too involved.

    The nice thing is, we have a court-respected witness should we need her.

    Anyhoo - I think being around difficult children may qualify all of us for something a little above and beyond what we already do or think we can do. We go on and on and on, day after day, living with things many people never think about. And we come out the other side. If something we have learned can help someone else - why not try?

    Also, around here all we have to have is an allegation of abuse, neglect or the child being a serious offender. We may end up with one assigned to us after all...
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think you would be awesome as a CASA. Their role varies widely from state to state. I do know they are carefully screened. I thought about doing it years ago when we lived in Cinci. Training was about 40 hours and took place one specific week every few months. You had to attend the entire week. I used all my vacation and sick days with kid problems so I couldn't do it.

    Here I think it is more flexible. Night classes, etc...

    They would LOVE a warrior mom like you. You are well versed in many areas crucial to children in these scary situation. Understanding mental illness, esp in kids, as well as school and those problems, well, you would be a Godsend to any child you represent. You would need to work on detaching right from the very beginning, but I think you could handle that.

    Keep us posted!
  17. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Ohhhh!!! Well then it sounds like my fears wouldn't apply if they have already been turned over to the state. There's a good chance you'll end up crossing paths with the psychiatrist that led difficult child's MDE, being in this situation. She is very knowledgable and I bet you like her- along with her multiple jobs that include working with children who have become wards, she advocates for children's needs and rights and gives talks to authorities in Department of Juvenile Justice. She wrote a heck of a long letter and sent it in a week or so ago when the plan to cut so much funding from juveniles in the justice system and mental health care system was made public. I'd love to pick her brain a while- not just regarding difficult child but for me as well. LOL! I was especially impressed when being a psychiatrist, she told me that many times kids end up on medications when the problem could be solved thru adequate therapy but it's very difficult to find tdocs who know how and can and are willing to work with kids on some of their issues. She really gets it- the Department of Juvenile Justice system, the way funding dictates so much, the lack of adequate care, and the way sd's try to plow over everything sometimes. You'll probably like her!

    Step, they are really hurting for CASA volunteers around here so I doubt they'll say no to a warrior mom. They are advertising all over the place trying to get people to volunteer for this and to be foster parents. I'd like to try the foster parent route in a year or so if difficult child can be more of a mentor than a co-conspirator or partner in crime and if I'm financially able.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  18. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Susiestar, thanks for your kind words - it means a lot to have the support of members here.

    K, the real need that you have seen lately is in the county that starts with an H and has a C in it. Each county and city has their own program. I am applying for the city CASA program because that's where I live and it's kinda along the lines of "charity starts at home".

    The economy has really affected many volunteer positions because a lot of folk have had to give up the volunteer time to make money.

  19. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    LMAO...I am dying laughing at the references to places.

    Sharon, I used to hang out sometimes over near where you now live when I was younger. One time in the past couple of years on the way home from Jamies, we decided to get off the interstate and take back roads instead of powhite out to my dads...oh what a mistake! I kept thinking I knew I could find my way

    Well...20 years changes things and my memory faded. We drove and drove until we somehow hit Broad street and found the road to the nickle Never was I so happy! (I take powhite now!)
  20. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    That's great news. The community need is overwhelming in most areas. Where I live they had to eliminate all cases involving teenqagers a few years back so there would be enough people to focus on the preteen children. Florida does not use attorneys as GALs which I think is wise. Each child does have an attorney appointed for their protection, however, and that lawyer
    participates in all hearings.

    Doing home visits to talk with everyone even remotely involved with the child led to some challenging moments. As a big city raised woman I found it a bit challenging driving down back country roads to talk with uncooperative rifle toting family members. :anxious: Mutual respect was a bit difficult to find, lol.
    Obviously it was not uncommon for resentment and animosity to be waiting on the front porch.

    I'll be very interested in following your journey. I don't doubt for a minute that many children will benefit from your dedication.