COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASAs)
The following is a brief description of the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) as it relates to CSWs and the children they serve.
Since 1978 the Child Advocates Office has been part of the Superior Court, recruiting volunteers from the community to act as court appointed special advocates/guardian ad litem (CASAs or GALs) for children in the Dependency Court system.
CASAs/GALs are adults who are concerned about the welfare of children, and who have the time to advocate that children in the system receive planning, services and resources to meet their need for a safe, permanent home. They are not appointed to be a friend to a child, but to be an advocate for that child.
CASA volunteers are given training in the court process, the social services system, child development, confidentiality, etc., and are supervised by a professional staff. Their rights and responsibilities are outlined in the Welfare and Institutions Code [Sections 100-109, 326, 356.5, 358.1, 366.2(c), 366.21(e) and 366.22(a)], and include conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the case, interviewing and observing the child and other appropriate persons, reviewing records and reports regarding the child, and submitting reports and recommendations to the court. Liability insurance for CASA volunteers does not cover providing direct services that are the responsibility of the social services agency, such as taking a child to medical or therapy appointments, or for pre-placement or family visits, unless there is a specific court order authorizing the CASA to do so.
- SEE REVERSE -
CASAs and social workers are, ideally a team working on behalf of the child. While CASA visits to a child cannot substitute for the required social work visits, they can provide valuable supplemental information to the social worker. The involvement of concerned people from the community can bring community awareness to many of the problems social workers face such as lack of resources. CASAs frequently do assist social workers and foster caregivers by requesting authorization to monitor visits or drive children to therapy appointments. CASAs may act as surrogate parents for education planning for children in group homes or with foster parents who prefer not to be involved in educational issues.
Children who are dependent on the care and protection of the juvenile court and DCFS have already had tragedy in their lives. They deserve the best we have to offer to give them stability and security. CASA volunteers and social workers, acting together, can provide the most effective advocacy. CASA volunteers can help social workers carry out their mission of safety and permanence for children.
Rita Cregg, Director
Child Advocates Office
BPCD CONTACT: Guy Trimarchi (213) 351-5733
Bruce Rubenstein, Deputy Director
Return to FYI Table of Contents