What are the requirements?
- Be 21 years of age
- Be willing to complete necessary background checks, provide references, and participate in an interview
- Complete a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training
- Be available for court appearances, with advance notice
- Spend time with the child at least once a month
- Be willing to commit to the program until your first case is closed
What is a CASA/Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocate and what is their role?
A CASA/Guardian ad Litem volunteer is a trained advocate appointed by the District Court judge to protect the best interests of a victimized child. A CASA/Guardian’s role is to research the case and present to the court with a unique, child-centered perspective. To prepare their recommendations, CASA/Guardians talk with family members, social workers, school officials, healthcare providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child. The CASA/GAL also reviews all records pertaining to the child’s schooling, medical treatment, and the child welfare progress. Most importantly, they visit with their child frequently in order to assess their needs.
How long does a CASA/GAL remain involved with a case?
The CASA/Guardian ad Litem remains involved with the case until the case is dismissed. Dismissal occurs when the child is returned to the parents, of if the parents rights are terminated, then the CASA/GAL is on the case until the child is adopted, or until the child ages out of the system at 18 years of age. The time varies greatly, but it is typically around 24 months, but can be years, if the child remains in the system until he/she ages out.
What training does a Guardian ad Litem volunteer receive?
Each volunteer is thoroughly screened (including an extensive background check) and must complete an initial 30-hour training before taking a case. In addition, each volunteer receives one-on-one mentoring throughout their first case. Monthly in service trainings are also provided.
Is there a “typical” Guardian volunteer?
The Gallatin County CASA/GAL volunteer advocates range in age from 21 to 70+ years, come from all walks of life, and have a variety of professional and educational backgrounds. Most of the advocates work full time, but a significant number are homemakers or retired. If a CASA/GAL works full time, a somewhat flexible work schedule is required to accommodate court hearings.
How many cases does a CASA/GAL carry and how much time does it require?
Volunteers typically take only one case at a time and spend an average of 10 hours a month per case. Much of that is phone time with individuals knowledgeable about the child, visiting with the child and court hearings.
How effective is the Gallatin County CASA/GAL Program?
The District Court Judges in Gallatin County have noted the value of the information that CASA/Guardians ad Litem bring to the proceedings and are appreciative of the unique perspective presented by the CASA/GAL’s. In addition, national studies show that a child who has been assigned an advocate spends less time in court and in foster care than those who do not have a volunteer advocate assigned to them. The program’s goal is to advocate for what is in the child/children’s best interest. That can be to reunite the abused or neglected child with the biological family, IF the family is able to provide a safe and nurturing environment. If the family cannot make the child/children their number one priority and cannot provide a safe and loving home, the CASA/GAL urges the decision makers to find safe, permanent and loving homes where the child can thrive.