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May 2006Vol. 7, No. 4Judges Express Satisfaction With CASA Volunteers

The National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association surveyed judges who hear dependency cases about their views on the role played by CASA and guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers in supporting judicial decision-making and court processes.

The resulting report, Evaluation of Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardians ad Litem Volunteer Impact: Judicial Survey, shows that, overall, judges agree that the work of CASA/GAL volunteers is high quality, beneficial to judicial decision-making, and beneficial to the children and families served. Specifically:

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of responding judges' dependency cases are assigned to a CASA/GAL volunteer.
  • Judges are most likely to assign CASA volunteers their most difficult and complex cases.
  • When assigning a case to a volunteer, judges particularly consider the instability of the child’s current placement, conflicting case information, concerns about implementation of services, and extreme neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse.
  • Judges clearly value input from CASA/GAL volunteers in their court decisions. Volunteer input is most highly valued on issues related to placement stability and the permanence and safety of the children while in placement.
  • Judges report that CASA volunteers' activities have been "very useful" in their decisions about case outcomes.
  • Judges find CASA volunteers to be very effective in a wide range of activities that support court processes. They find volunteers most effective in considering the best interests of the child and in monitoring the case.
  • There is general concern about the availability of CASA/GAL volunteers for court caseloads, and only 6 percent of judges "strongly agree" that there are sufficient volunteers to meet the need.

The full report is available from the National CASA website: (PDF - 169 KB)

Related Item

The National CASA Association also supports the work of the judiciary by providing information resources through its electronic newsletter, The Judges' Page. The most recent issue highlights the importance of identifying the mental health issues facing children, teens, and parents who are involved in the dependency system.

Some of the topics covered are reunification efforts for parents with mental health problems, collaboration between the juvenile court and mental health systems, the role of CASA/GAL volunteers, psychological assessment, and confidentiality laws.