As a foster parent, I found the legal jargon and courtroom experiences to be quite intimidating. I spent many hours scouring the internet trying to make sense of the legal processes that children, birth parents and foster parents go through when a child is placed into protective custody. There are hearings, mediations, service plans, trials, judges, attorneys, caseworks, and acronyms…oh, so….many…..acronyms! While, the process of learning the system and the vocabulary is daunting, the process of surrendering to it is fierce.
We all know this system was created to meet a very unfortunate need. It’s job is to care for children who have been abandoned, neglected, or abused; children who have been left feeling powerless and alone. These children are completely dependent on this very intimidating system to provide safety and permanency. It is critical they know they are not alone. They need a compassionate, well informed team to protect and guide them through this very difficult season of their lives.
When families break down and state authorities get involved, the top priority is to locate safe and loving caregivers for the children. When extended family is a viable option, that is the first choice. If family is unavailable, then foster parents are provided. These temporary caregivers play a HUGE role in this lives of these children. Not only do they provide for the day to day physical needs of the child, but they are instrumental in helping them feel safe and protected during this very traumatic time period. Aside from foster parents, children are also assigned an attorney, a caseworker and in some cases, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian ad Litem.
A CASA is a volunteer that is appointed by the Family Court judge to advocate for the best interest of the child. On this week’s Mamas Well Podcast, Court Appointed Special Advocate, and Interim Development Director for CASA Montgomery County, Lindsay Miller, brings clarity to the role CASA plays in the lives of vulnerable children.
The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are:
• Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in the children’s lives.
• Provide written reports at court hearings
• Advocate for the child’s best interest and provide testimony when necessary.
• Help the child understand the court proceedings.
• Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the child’s lives.
• Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
• Monitor the case plans and check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
• Keep the court informed on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are being filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child situation.
Everyone needs an advocate, someone to stand and fight for them, especially vulnerable children. They need a team of well informed, competent, compassionate and caring individuals who are willing to step in and step up to fight for the best interests of the child…and CASA was created to do just that.