Our model and how it works
CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for children’s best interests. They stay with each case until it is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home. We serve children from birth through the age defined by state statute as the limit to youth remaining in care.
Volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
Our best-interest advocacy is driven by the guiding principle that children grow and develop best with their family of origin, if that can be safely achieved. Most of the children we work with are in foster care, but some are with their family of origin. And, most children who leave foster care do so to return to their family.
Best-interest considerations in each case include health, safety, day-to-day care, and emotional ties.
What’s the difference between a CASA volunteer and a GAL volunteer?
- CASA = court-appointed special advocate
- GAL = guardian ad litem
- The titles vary by location, but both are appointed by the court to advocate for the best interest of children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Who are our volunteers, and how are they prepared?
- CASA/GAL volunteers are regular people, from all walks of life, who have been rigorously screened and trained extensively by their local program.
- Each volunteer receives more than 30 hours of training before they work with a child, with an additional 12 hours of continued education required annually.
- Volunteers receive ongoing support to help them advocate effectively on a child’s behalf.
- Each year, CASA/GAL programs train more than 24,000 new community advocates.
How are CASA/GAL volunteers different than social workers, attorneys and others working with children in court?
- CASA/GAL volunteers are assigned to only one or two children or sibling groups at a time.
- Our volunteers stay involved on the case from the time of appointment until the child achieves permanency.
- Because of the small number of children a volunteer serves, they have more time to commit to each child.
- CASA/GAL volunteers are specially trained to consider issues relevant to the best interests of the child, which may be different than the interests of other parties or the child’s wishes. Traditional attorneys who represent children are required to advocate for their client’s—the child’s—wishes.
Be a CASA/GAL Volunteer
Court-appointed special advocate and guardian ad litem volunteers make a life-changing difference for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.