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View Diary: Better Safe Than Sorry (25 comments)

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  •  My only caveat to this, otherwise, great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RoCali, Mayfly

    is that I have a very right-wing republican roommate who was involved with CASA.  He has regaled me with the great things he has done to help disadvantaged kids.  However, he has also shared that the Family Court took his recommendations with regard to issues affecting children's lives very seriously.  My problem with this is that he is uneducated in psychology or family dynamics, he is super conservative (with all that engenders), and should anyone who is not an expert in this field be making recommendations to the Family Court with regard to child life outcomes?  Particularly given people's personal prejudices, religious values, and the like?  Just a serious, and sincere question.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 01:36:25 AM PST

    •  It is quite true, the court takes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a CASA's recommendations very, very seriously; however, they are not the only recommendations submitted and considered.  The experts still submit their recommendations, which are weighted heavily also.  And, there are different types of issues be considered here.

      CASA was originated by a family court judge in, if I remember correctly, Washington, in the 1970s.  Up to that point, the only input the judges received was from the state attorney, representing the state's interest and the child, and the parents' attorney, representing the parents' interest.  What the judge wanted was someone to solely speak for the child's interest.

      Prior to ever being assigned a case, a CASA is put through a training program that covers a wide array of relevant topic materials.  At the end of successful completion of that training, they are sworn in with the court.  A new CASA is assigned a mentor/supervisor with the assignment of cases and their work product is fully reviewed prior to submission.  These supervisors have additional training and educational requirements and are not volunteers, while all CASAs are volunteers.

      A CASA has incredible leeway in gathering information from every institution involved in that particular child's care, school records, etc., in addition to having access to the child and foster home.  A part of their job is to gather all that pertinent information and place it in a report for the court.  At the summation of all the facts, they are to make a recommendation based upon the facts they have presented, in accordance with their opinion off what would be the best outcome for that particular child in that particular situation.  

      The court then takes that report and recommendation into consideration, in addition to the reports from psychologists, social workers, etc.  The CASA's report is given substantial weight, as would be the child's own testimony, but it is definitely not the only submission accepted and reviewed.  A large part of CASA training is that it is pounded into the CASA that they are to represent that child and that child's interests.  They are, after all, the child's advocate.

      Clearly, there is always a possibility that a CASA may going into this with their own agenda, although everyone in the process works hard to filter those out.  But then, that can happen in any system.  We know historically that, upon occasion, other advocates, such as lawyers, have stumbled on these issues themselves.  No system is fool-proof and perfect.  But again, it is up to the judge, as in any case, to evaluate what is presented to them and make the decision, in the best interests of the child, based upon all the evidence, submissions and recommendations.  Judges are aware that people have certain prejudices and generally apply their best efforts at filtering through.

      Since the program has been in effect, it has had wonderful results overall.  I cannot and will not claim that there never had been an error, that would be impossible.  But the CASA program and the people I've worked with within it have been solely dedicated to getting the best possible result for each child.  

      CASAs have made recommendations instrumental in getting children appropriate educational settings, medical care, a host of issues, that might typically be lost in the foster care system.  The social workers are simply overwhelmed by a massive caseload and, try as they may, cannot dedicate the time needed to meet the child's needs, in many cases.  

      Remember, the CASA does not make decisions, only recommendations.  Those recommendations are reviewed by an experienced jurist, and weighted against the reports by the professionals.  Often, the CASA's recommendation and, for example, the psychologist's, recommendations are in agreement, truthfully.  If there is a conflict, further scrutiny is applied by the court.

      I understand your concerns, honestly, but frankly, in an imperfect world, CASA is one of the best tools we have to help these kids.  And these kids need all the help they can get.  Things can get pretty bleak and the future for them is not pretty.  About half of these kids are going to end up homeless after they turn 18.  And, if they have a CASA, things were pretty bad for them to begin with.

      There are nowhere near enough CASA volunteers for the incredibly high number of kids in the system, so only the neediest of cases are assigned a CASA.  In my county, we have approximately 150 CASAs and approximately 9,000 kids in the system.  We're so overcrowded, I know of children that had to sleep on sofas in the Department of Social Services while their workers frantically tried to find a placement for them; knowing if they left them in their home, their lives were at risk.

      Foster care, many times, is the lesser of two evils.  Tragically, that epitomizes the entire system and there are no perfect answers.  I only wish there were.  Each and every child deserves a safe, loving, supportive home, but reality in no way approaches that ideal.

      You are my brother, my sister.

      by RoCali on Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 09:14:23 AM PST

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