Court appointed Special Advocates work with a specialized panel of attorneys that argue dependency cases and represent the parties in each case, namely children and parents. This month, two of the panel attorneys share their views on what role a CASA plays in Dependency Court and the legal process that strives to keep children safe and families healthy.
Attorney Kimberly Hunt writes, "CASA volunteers are charged with the duty of advocating for abused and neglected children. Typically CASA advocates are viewed as volunteering their time to help children in unfortunate and even unmentionable situations. As a Dependency Attorney I often have a slightly different take on CASA advocates.
"While I certainly recognize and appreciate the truly worthy cause these volunteers choose to dedicate their time to, I appreciate the help CASAs provide myself in representing my clients. I believe the more information you can have in a case the better; and whether I am representing the child or the parent accused of abuse or neglect, I often look to a CASA for valuable information that may not otherwise be available. We, as attorneys, are sometimes limited in what information we can obtain on our own, which is one reason CASAs have been so valuably looked to in these cases. Oftentimes CASAs are the eyes and ears behind the scenes that can provide true insight in to what is actually going on with a family and what is in the best interest of a child.
"And while I as an attorney may not always agree with a CASA's evaluation of a case or particular requests for any given child, I continue to consider CASAs a valuable part of our Dependency System and hope the ability to appoint CASAs in these difficult cases remain long into the future. This hope is rooted in the belief that aside from the valuable information CASAs provide to attorneys and the Court in each case, they oftentimes become much more than a volunteer advocate assigned by a Judge to advocate for abused and neglected children. CASAs become a friend, a confidant and source of stability for these children and sometimes the entire family. These bonds can and have developed into long-term relationships with kids and parents alike. I cannot help but be thankful for the commitment of one person choosing to volunteer their spare time, given the positive impact it can have on a child and often a family's life."
Attorney Lori London, who has worked with CASA volunteers for 18 years, knows their value well and shares, "A CASA is a friend to a child. A CASA is a voice for that child in a Courtroom. A CASA is you. Those of us who serve in the Dependency Courts strive to do what is best for families in the most difficult of times for that family. The more information we have from the child's point of view the easier it is for us to get a real view of what the family needs in order to make it whole and healthy for that child. The input we receive from a CASA worker can help make the difference in where that child will live, what services that child and their parents will get, and deciding whether it is safe for the child to go home. If you love children and you have the time to make a commitment to a child think about being a CASA. You can make a difference in a child's life. The reward for you and for that child will last a lifetime."
- For more information about CASA, please contact CASA in South Lake Tahoe at 573-3072.