This insightful comment in response to The Evolution of CASA Volunteering post yesterday deserves attention. It has made me better understand the complex issues we deal with as guardians ad-Litem. I do not agree with everything the author writes, but there is no disputing the facts she presents. I have had a similar experience and know how painful it is.

My article was written from the perspective of a CASA volunteer working with very troubled children that were not adopted. They needed a consistent adult in their life and we must help provide that.

Some of my CASA children had been in over ten foster homes and treatment centers and would age out of foster care very alone and uncertain.

I failed to clarify that in yesterday’s article. This counterpoint helps to clarify the serious issues that must always be considered in our struggle to provide the very best services to abused and neglected children. Please submit your own ideas and comments to this discussion.

Michael,
I am emailing you this privately and will leave it to your discretion as to whether you want to post this on your site as a mode of discussion. I know you support CASA and they do a lot of good for some kids, but the program has developed major faults over time.

It was never intended that CASA become a substitute parent or become personally involved with the children at all. They are supposed to be objective, getting FACTS from everyone involved, making recommendations to the judge based up those facts. Their own rules caution them against becoming too personally involved causing loss of objectivity.

They are not supposed to take the child shopping, buy them gifts, or celebrate milestones. This is the role of the parental figure in the child’s life. What if the parent doesn’t step up? The CASA can recommend that the child be assigned a person who can serve that role. It is not the CASA responsibility to fill it.

The CASA guidelines describe this role as “passive observer, information gatherer.” Passive is not active. They may not actively do anything. Gathering information does not equal obtaining or performing services. Obtaining services is the duty of the caseworker.

The CASA may recommend to the judge that services be obtained, but is not allowed to perform them himself.

This is where CASA goes awry causing blurred boundaries with the other parties involved in the case, especially, the parents. CASA can overstep to the point that they push the parent out of the picture completely, and this is a grand travesty to the child.

Additionally, CASAs receive their 40 hours of training in neglect and abuse cases, yet they are also assigned to dependency cases. Sometimes, “no fault dependency” cases.

As a result of ASFA, when the federal government gave money to states for the purpose of increasing adoptions, large numbers of kids did get good homes. Thirteen years later, hoards of those kids are re-entering the system because they came to parents with severe mental and emotional scars as a result of infant and child trauma, neglect, and abuse.

States refuse to help in any way with the astronomical mental health fees, such as $150,000 per year for residential care. Health insurance, Medicaid, and adopt subsidies pay nothing towards this care, not $1. Adoptive families are being forced to relinquish children back to the states to access astronomically expensive mental health care.

It defaults to child protective services and Juvenile Court, neither of which understand mental health and trauma. These cases are being treated just like abuse and neglect, when they are really clinical matters. What training does CASA have for cases like these? ZERO. NONE. They treat parents like they are abusive too. They are taking over the parental role, which is the last thing a child with bonding and attachment issues needs.

These children need assistance staying close to the only parents they’ve ever known. They don’t need to be separated from them. They don’t need to suffer guilt from watching their parents be charged with neglect and having CASA and caseworkers run all over their parents.

This happened to us. The CASA on our case bribed our son with over $1000 in gifts. Books, clothes, electronic games, rollerblades, skateboard, bicycle, health club membership complete with personal trainer, and on, and on, and on. This worker’s supervisor ridiculed me in court while the judge and attorneys were in chambers because I dared bring it to their attention that they were breaking all their own rules.

My son was calling her twice weekly asking her to buy him things, which only served to feed his OCD, causing setbacks in his therapy. He spoke to her husband on the phone. On her final visit, she sat in front of him at the residential treatment facility and cried tears in front of him, because I was trying to get her dismissed. I was, and rightly so.

She gave legal advice. She told the school I needed a court order to get his school records which was not true. She tried to paint to everyone that we were bad parents. Then she lied repeatedly in an effort to cover up her own discrepancies. She wound herself up in such a web of lies the judge dismissed her.

The only issue with our family is that our son has PTSD and OCD due to pre-adoptive trauma and severe infant neglect that happened two years before he came to live in our home. The state baled on us for any and every kind of mental health funding.

Unfortunately, after she was gone, our son figured out the truth. He no longer trusts them and neither do we. Kids with PTSD do not trust adults and it has taken us many years to develop a level of trust with him.

That CASA magnified his trust issues even more. The new one has been less involved, but still insists on overstepping the parental role. He keeps advising us on what he thinks would be best. We are good parents. We’ve raised 3 other kids, all of whom are community servants and upstanding citizens, nursing, police work, military.

Just because parents can’t cure PTSD does not make them unfit. It does not mean they don’t want a relationship with their child. It does not give CASA or anyone else the right to take their place.

We have another parent in our state in the same situation. The states attorney is seeking to terminate her parental rights because he does not feel that a single mom can raise a child with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Shame on the states for giving children permanency and then taking it away after failing to provide the mental health services the child needs. Shame on CASA for taking advantage of children and parents in this unjust situation.

It is my opinion that CASA should not be assigned to these cases at all, and that the parents be allowed to speak for the child’s “best interests.” If the CASA organization truly wanted to help this population of children, they should boycott these types of cases all together, sending a clear message to the government that these cases do not belong in court at all. Parents are entitled to the same rights as those who have children with physical illnesses, CUSTODY AND TREATMENT. Preserve adoptions.

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