Erie County Casa Program                 Erie County Casa Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a CASA/GAL volunteer?
A CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem) is a trained community volunteer who is appointed by the family court judge to represent the best interest of an abused or neglected child who is involved in a court proceeding. A CASA/GAL works independently as the child's voice in court, advocating for a safe, permanent and loving home.

What is the role of the CASA/GAL?
The CASA volunteer provides the Judge with carefully researched information about the child to help the court make a sound decision based upon a child's "best interest." The CASA volunteer is committed to thinking independently and objectively about each child's unique circumstances.

How does a CASA/GAL research a case?
In order to make fact based recommendations, the CASA volunteer talks to the child(ren), parents, family members, health care providers, teachers, social workers, and/or anyone that has pertinent information regarding the child's history. The CASA/GAL volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child, such as school, medical and case worker reports.

How does a CASA/GAL volunteer differ from a social worker?
Social workers must investigate the allegations of abuse and neglect. By law, they must consider reunifying the family, when appropriate, which requires them to consider the interests of the entire family. Parents of the children are represented by their own legal counsel. While many other professionals are involved, the CASA/GAL volunteer is the only person whose sole task is to focus on protecting the best interest of the child.

How does the role of the CASA/GAL volunteer differ from the Attorney, Guardian Ad Litem?
An attorney may be appointed to represent the child depending on the child's case circumstances. An attorney GAL is responsible for providing legal counsel and representation for the child in the courtroom. The CASA/GAL volunteer provides crucial information from interviews and observations with the child, parents, and others. CASA/GAL volunteers normally carry between one to three cases at a time.

Is there a typical CASA/GAL volunteer?
No. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, with a variety of educational, work experience, life skills and ethnic backgrounds. CASA/GAL volunteers have a strong compassion for children and the objectivity to serve their best interest.

Can anyone volunteer as a CASA/GAL?
Yes, as long as that person is an adult age 21 and over of sound character and committed to representing the best interest of abused and neglected children. All applicants must complete a full background screening.

What training does a CASA/GAL volunteer receive?
Each CASA/GAL attends a thorough training program conducted by the Erie County CASA Program staff. Volunteers learn about courtroom procedures, cutting edge case management techniques, and safety. Specific topics ranging from child abuse, family dynamics, substance abuse, domestic violence, and advocacy skills are also covered during training.

How does the CASA/GAL volunteer relate to the child he or she represents?
CASA volunteer offer trust, consistency and advocacy during complex and confusing legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reasons they are in court, and the role of the Judge, the lawyers, and the social workers. While remaining objective observers, the CASA/GAL volunteers also encourage the children to express their concerns and desires.

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