The Case Against CASA

HOW THE MOST SACRED COW IN CHILD WELFARE HURTS THE CHILDREN IT IS MEANT TO HELP

The trade journal Youth Today aptly summed up the appeal of the Court-Appointed Special Advocates Program, noting that CASA

“Couldn’t sound more apple pie, more thousand points of light. CASAs are a cadre of 74,000 volunteers trained for dozens of hours, then dispatched to conduct independent investigations of child abuse and to represent the children’s interests in courts around the nation. What could be wrong with that?”

Plenty, it turns out; much of it revealed by the most comprehensive evaluation of CASA ever done, an evaluation commissioned by the National CASA Association itself. As Youth Today noted, the report “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers.”[1]

  • The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.
  • The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety – so all that extra foster care is for nothing. (The study specifically controlled for CASA’s all purpose excuse for this – the claim that CASAs handle the most difficult cases.)
  • The study also found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is Black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. (The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases in general as the organization’s p.r. might lead one to believe. CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and only 2.67 hours per month on cases involving Black children).[2]
  • A Youth Today columnist aptly summed up the findings this way:

    “The more rigorous evaluation … not only challenged the effectiveness of the court volunteers’ services, but suggested that they spend little time on cases, particularly those of black children, and are associated with more removals from the home and fewer efforts to reunite children with parents or relatives.”[3]

    In short, CASA is one more thumb tilting the scales of justice against families.

    None of this should come as a surprise. Like most people in child welfare, CASA volunteers and the paid staff who support them at the local and national level mean well; they really want to do what’s best for vulnerable children. And a few CASA chapters have avoided the problems discussed here. But children suffer enormously from CASA’s well-meaning blunders.

    The problems are built into the CASA model. Who has time to spend even 4.3 hours a month on a case? Certainly not a poor person holding down two jobs. So it’s no wonder CASA programs sometimes are pet projects of the local Junior League and the demographics of CASAs tend to be vastly different from the demographics of the families they judge.All over America, CASA volunteers, who are mostly middle class and 90 percent white, march into the homes of people who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately minority. Then, the CASAs pass judgment on the families and recommend whether they ever should get their children back. The CASA is the de-facto judge, since the real judges almost always rubber-stamp their recommendations.

    Rather than respond to the findings of its own study by cleaning up its act, CASA tried first to spin the results and then to bury them. Youth Today concluded that CASA’s spin “can border on duplicity.”[4]

    The study was consigned to an obscure corner of a website meant primarily for CASAs themselves, then removed entirely. That’s why NCCPR has made it available here!

    The study isn’t the only evidence of the bias that permeates CASA:

  • Although a CASA is supposed to evaluate the entire case objectively, the website for the Indianapolis CASA program declares every family from whom a child is taken is guilty. According to the website “volunteers help ensure that the children we fight to protect are not returned to the very situations where the mistreatment occurred”[5] [emphasis added].
  • In Arkansas City, Kansas, in 2009, where the big annual fundraiser for CASA is a drag queen contest, the winner of the talent competition and the “Miss CASA” title was the local mayor. He dressed up as a woman to whom he gave a surname described as “graphic slang for a female private part.” So is the name the mayor chose for his back-up dancers. Oh, and one more thing: The mayor did his act made-up in blackface.
  • The local CASA director said she was mortified when someone explained what the surname meant. Other than that though, she gave the performance a rave review, telling a local news website: “The part of his act I felt was excellent was the dancing. It was good dancing. The back-up singers were gorgeous and could probably back up any professional. … We may change some things. We may not. We certainly don’t want to offend anybody.” As for the blackface, the CASA director said she didn’t think the mayor was trying to portray a different race: “It wasn’t black black,” she said. “It was all really just tan.” It was not until after the National CASA Association went into damage control mode and set up a conference call with the local chapter, the state chapter and the local NAACP that the local chapter apologized.[6]

  • CASAs also behaved reprehensibly in high-profile cases in Texas, Florida and Washington State.[7]
  • Throughout the country, local CASA chapters continue to state or imply that they are “a child’s voice” in court. They are not. A CASA advocates for whatever the CASA thinks is best for the child. So if the child desperately wants to go home, but the CASA thinks that’s a bad idea, the CASA pushes as hard as she can against what the child wants; the child effectively is silenced. (While it is much less likely to happen, if a child wants to stay in foster care and the CASA wants the child to return home, again, the child is silenced – and that is equally wrong.)
  • Children do need a voice in court – a real one. From the age a child is old enough to express a rational preference she or he should get a lawyer to fight for that preference. That doesn’t mean children always should get what they want. But the best way to find out what truly is best for a child is if everyone has an articulate advocate making his or her case. Deciding what is best is what we pay judges for. It’s time we stopped ceding that role to amateurs.

    For more about CASA see these poststo the sister site at NCCPR Child Welfare Blog.

    My own commentary in this article: While in past times I would have not condoned the behavior of CASA and never really being representible in child cases with DFACS and the way they handled themselves professionally and legally on the side mostly with DFACS workers and in that I don’t think CASA workers were fully kept up to date by case workers on how these cases were actually doing, being led by a blind eye hence, not being totally informed of all aspects of the cases alone.

    I think times are changing and CASA volunteers are really going to bat for parents and in working for what is in the best interest of the child, and that is a PLUS in my book. In my opinion, I don’t know that back then that casa workers were being told what to do by case workers and not putting their own views and being led in the wrong direction. I am really glad to see that many of our CASA workers believe in the parents (for the most part) and willing to help them instead of hurting them (economically and mentally,socially and physically) I am really glad to see that CASA is on a good standing point with court tactics and dfacs protocol and making things work better for the child welfare system. Children do need a voice and if we don’t step up and provide one these children will just fall through the cracks and nothing will ever be done about how people are handling this situation.

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    About gacoalition4childprotectionreform1

    For the past 10 years I have been researching family law, constitutional law dealing with deprivation and DFCS/CPS. While I am not a lawyer, I am a special family rights law Advocate; advocating families who have been disrupted by the department of family and children services.
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    3 Responses to The Case Against CASA

    1. IN-AmberAlertMom says:

      The CASA/GAL Program in Indianapolis, Indiana, Director Leslie Dunn, along with her sidekick in Hamilton County Courts (IN) Shelly Hiles-Haymaker needs to be fired and prosecuted for the illegal activity that is taking place in the Courts of Hamilton County and what is being allowed based on the trust, or should I say corruptness that the GAL’s are being utilized.
      There are incomprehensible actions being committed by CASA/GAL’s such as the GAL appointed to the Jennifer Ansari case (IN THE PATERNITY OF SOPHIA SNOW, SNOW vs ANSARI) and this woman and her child (Sophia Snow, age 8) being the subject of an unlawful and unjustified Amber Alert. This child was kidnapped from essentially the only parent she has ever known and Mr. Snow, the punitive father who has rarely had a relationship w/the child was handed custody. Not to mention that Mr. Snow lives 1600 miles away from her mother, Sophia’s step-father (who acted the role as father for Mr. Snow) and Sophia’s two other sisters. The GAL appointed named William Zwick, not only had arranged plans to fly 1600 miles away to inspect Sophia’s father’s Coral Springs Florida home, but took his entire family with him to Coral Springs Florida on an all exclusive paid vacation by Sophia’s father himself. Wow, it must be great to have his job. Not to mention as well that William Zwick is also an attorney in Hamilton County and a volunteer appointed by the Court. Wouldn’t it be extremely difficult to be a neutral party to a case after having your family treated as royalty and given an all exclusive vacation? YES!! It’s extremely unethical!!! The report given by Mr. Zwick stated how Mr. Snow exerted no parenting skills…. But blamed it on the lack of time with Sophia. Now, mother has always lived in Indiana… It was clearly Mr. Snow’s choice to move twice from the only place Sophia had grown up, first he relocated to New Jersey, then to Boca Raton Florida, then again when Mr. Snow purchased his half million dollar home on a “pond”!!! How many “ponds” do you know of in South Florida??? William Zwick underestimated in his report that his entire investigation was based on Mr. Snow’s money. Mr. Snow is employed by Sirius XM in Deerfield Florida making over $200,000 a year. Mr. Snow lives on the canal in Coral Springs, not a “pond” as reported by the GAL in his report. William Zwick sadly wasted his ink and paper stating how beautiful the shrubs were instead of the issues he should have been addressing, such as, a picture nude of Mr. Snow found on Mr. Snow’s company cell phone taken with another man pointing to Mr. Snow’s genitals. There had already been a DCS report and interview with Sophia by a DCS caseworker where Sophia had disclosed inappropriate exposure to nude photos of both Mr. Snow and of his girlfriend, Jordan Gadsby via Mr. Snow’s (company) cell phone.
      This organization is so tarnished it should be banned and found unconstitutional. Only a psychologist (Doctorate) should be capable of placing opinions in front of a Court of law. Even then, there shall be substantiated evidence in order to remove a child, such as Sophia, from everything she has ever known. Sophia was everything to her mother, and vice versa. Mrs. Ansari had NO substantiated reports against her regarding any of her 3 children. In fact, Mrs. Ansari had been dealing with the harassment, by Mr Snow, since Sophia was an infant and Mrs. Ansari kicked Mr. Snow out of her life after Mr. Snow sexually assaulted her oldest daughter when her oldest was 3, who is now 12. After the allegations against Mr. Snow is when Mr. Snow left the State of Indiana and hired not the best attorney in Hamilton County, but the most corrupt attorney in Hamilton County. What has been allowed to occurred in this case by the use if this tarnished program is LEGAL KIDNAPPING. William Zwick was no volunteer or advocate for Sophia, William Zwick was hired by Mr. Snow, his attorney (Rodney Sarkovics) and the Judge (Paul Felix). And our society allows this non-sense to happen to innocent children and families… How sad and unproud America should be to harvest an organization that is destroying happy healthy families for popularity and $$$$.
      Please view Jennifer Ansari’s interview from jail on YouTube after the Fishers Police Department drove two hours in a black pick up truck to seize her daughter Sophia, without a hearing, from Louisville Kentucky and drove Sophia back to Fishers Indiana to hand her over to Mr. Snow who had conveniently been in town for a funeral of the death of his former boss, Denzil Miller, who was the general manager of Thomson, RCA, who then when RCA went down with the economy in 2006, Denzil Miller conveniently referred Mr. Snow to his corrupt attorney, and got him a job with Sirius XM.
      A long story short; Jennifer Ansari was going through a divorce when Sophia was conceived. Her divorce was final w/in 10 months of Sophia’s birth. ACCORDING TO INDIANA LAW SOPHIA IS A CHILD OF JENNIFER ANSARI’S MARRIAGE UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE BY A COURT OF LAW!!! The Fishers Police Department along w/the Hamilton County Prosectors office halted the investigation regarding the sexual allegations against Mr. Snow just short if requesting DNA!!! Ummm… It has not been proven otherwise by a Court of Law that Mr. Snow is Sophia’s father, WHY?? Because if the DNA would have been requested at the hearing establishing visitation with Mr. Snow that DNA would have been utilized to charge and convict Mr. Snow!!! This is CORRUPTION!!! And Mrs. Jennifer Ansari and Sophia are the victims of the distraction caused by Hamilton County Court and the Fishers Police!

      Like

      • gacoalition4childprotectionreform1 says:

        Oh yeah, I know – We aren’t saying that all casa’s are superior. We had one of the worst one’s also. This is illegal kidnapping.

        Like

      • gacoalition4childprotectionreform1 says:

        Definitely corruption among CASA workers, same as in my case also! Together we must stand as one. Thank you for posting…

        Like

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