VOLUNTEER JOB DESCRIPTION
CASA/GAL Program of Summit County
Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian ad Litem volunteers are trained individuals appointed by the Summit County Juvenile Court Judge to speak for the best interests of children who are brought before the court for reasons of abuse or neglect.
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is often referred to as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (GAL), is an official part of judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers. By handling only one or two cases at a time the CASA/GAL has time to thoroughly explore the history of each assigned case. The volunteer reviews all court facts about the case and the volunteer also reviews all court documents pertaining to the case. He or she then is expected to submit formal reports to the Judge/Magistrate at every scheduled hearing/review. The CASA/GAL continues to monitor the case to assure that the judicial and child welfare systems are moving ahead to secure a safe, permanent home for the child, and that court-ordered services are provided to the child and family. The CASA/GAL can be an invaluable participant in the child welfare system in facilitating a permanent home for the child as soon as possible.
The CASA concept was first implemented by Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington in 1977. As a Judge he felt a compelling need to have more information available to him on which he could base his decisions, most of which had lifetime ramifications for children. Since the conception of the CASA program in 1977, CASA has grown to include over 933 member programs now in 49 states and Washington DC. The National CASA Association has been established to provide leadership and lend technical support to new and existing programs. The CASA/GAL Program of Summit County adheres to all program guidelines and standards established by the National CASA Association.
The CASA/GAL Program of Summit County advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the Juvenile Court System. Based on the belief that children are entitled to a safe and permanent home, the CASA/GAL Program of Summit County works in the court system through trained community volunteers, in collaboration with key agencies, legal counsel and community resources to serve as the child’s advocate and represent the child in juvenile court.
PROGRAM GOALS/PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
- To provide independent, factual information to the court regarding abused and neglected children
- To provide advocacy for abused and neglected children who are subject of judicial proceedings
- To monitor cases involving abused and neglected children until the terms of the court order have been fulfilled
- To conduct independent and objective analysis concerning abused and neglected children
- To factually and objectively report findings and observations to the court
- To ensure representation of the child’s best interest in all judicial proceedings
- To monitor cases following a court hearing or decision as designated by the court
THE CASA VOLUNTEER
Completes an intensive independent review of each case:
- Speaks with the child and relevant adults
- Reviews appropriate records and reports
- Observes the child and significant others
Reports findings to the court:
- Provides a written report containing factual information
- Attends court hearings concerning the child
- Participates in case conferences concerning the child
Ensures representation of the child’s best interest:
- Attends all court hearings to see that all relevant facts are presented
- Attends appropriate interagency meetings regarding the child
- Prods public systems into action
Monitors cases following a court hearing or decision as designated by the court
Consults regularly with the volunteer coordinator concerning assigned cases
- Ability to keep all client and court information confidential
- Ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing
- Ability to respect and relate to people from various backgrounds (economic, cultural, educational) in a variety of settings
- Ability to transport self to a variety of settings
- Proof of valid Ohio drivers license and vehicle insurance
- Ability to deal with hostility, anger and other emotional attitudes
- Ability to maintain objectivity
- Ability to gather and record factual information accurately
- A basic understanding of child development
- A basic understanding of family relationships
- Must be 21 years of age
- Must be able to successfully pass a criminal and child welfare background check
- CASA/GAL volunteers are required to attend a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training
- CASA/GAL volunteers follow guidelines established by the National CASA Association
- CASA/GAL volunteers will attend 12 hours of in-service training annually
- CASA/GAL volunteers will receive direct supervision and guidance from program staff
- Volunteers are asked to commit to the program for 24 months
- Volunteers are expected to be available for case assignment and to accept cases unless other arrangements have been made
The CASA/GAL Program of Summit County has been appointing trained volunteers to abuse and neglect cases since 1981. Currently, the CASA/GAL Program of Summit County has approximately 200 child advocates. CASA/GAL plays an integral part in assuring that children do not become lost in the court system. A CASA/GAL volunteer is a caring adult who tries to understand the child’s concerns and report them to the Judge/Magistrate.
Early contact with children who become involved in the Summit County Juvenile Court as a result of abuse and/or neglect can help prevent future involvement either as a delinquent or an offending adult. The CASA/GAL program is dedicated to the premise that all children are entitled to grow up in a safe and loving home. The CASA program is committed to reunification of child/children with their birth family, when that home can be made safe for the child/children. Most important is the CASA/GAL volunteer’s role in ensuring that all decisions regarding the child are in the child’s best interest.