A CASA / Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child’s best interests during child abuse and neglect proceedings. The CASA/GAL is appointed to a child by the District Court Judge on the case. The appointment of a Guardian ad Litem is mandatory under federal and state statutes. The duties of a CASA/GAL are to investigate the facts constituting the alleged abuse or neglect; to interview the child, parents or custodians and others who may have information relevant to the case; to review Court, medical, psychological, law enforcement and social service files; to make written reports to the Court, to appear and participate in Court proceedings; and to perform other duties as directed by the Court.
To qualify as a CASA/GAL, one need only be a Montana resident and have an abiding interest in protecting at-risk children. After completing the 30-hour training, the CASA/Guardian ad Litem is sworn in by a District Court Judge and then is able to advocate for the best interests of children who become a part of the court system as a result of abuse and neglect.
These CASA/Guardians ad Litem span the full spectrum of Montana’s residents. They are homemakers, business executives, office workers, teachers, and retirees. Like the children whose interests they represent, CASA/Guardians ad Litem also span the full spectrum of Montana’s racial, ethnic, age, income and cultural milieus.
While each CASA/Guardian ad Litem serves as an advocate for a given child, the role is much bigger than that. When a child’s own family, school, and neighborhood is suddenly disrupted, a CASA/Guardian ad Litem is often the one constant figure that supports that child to grow and flourish, despite the abrupt change in their life circumstances. CASA/Guardians ad Litem, in a word, are more than a dependent child’s advocate in court. Ideally, these advocates become the child’s friend, mentor, and trusted adviser. A CASA/GAL can forever change a child’s life for the better. So can a child change the life of a CASA/Guardian ad Litem.