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National CASA Association Standards and Quality Assurance System for Local CASA/GAL Member Programs

Executive Summary—What Every Judge Needs to Know

The National CASA Association was established to promote, assist and support the development and growth of quality Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and volunteer guardian ad litem (GAL) programs. We believe that a commitment to quality is a commitment to the children served. The primary purpose of the National CASA quality assurance (QA) system is to support our mission of quality volunteer advocacy to help ensure that each child will thrive in a safe, permanent home. The QA system assesses member program operations and management based on the Standards for Local CASA/GAL Member Programs. The National CASA standards and QA system ensure that member programs share a common mission and are consistent nationwide in upholding core standards.

As a judge who appoints CASA volunteers to advocate for children, there are certain facets of the standards and QA system with which you should be familiar:

Standards: Standards for Local CASA/GAL Member Programs were initially approved by the National CASA board of directors in March 1997 and revised in September 2002 and again in April 2006. The document contains standards and requirements for CASA member programs. A member program is required to meet National CASA standards and requirements as well as those of the state CASA program, if a state CASA organization exists and has standards or requirements in addition to those of the National CASA Association.

The 12 program standards encompass the following areas of program management:
  • Mission and Purpose
  • Governance
  • Program Development and Implementation
  • National Affiliation
  • State Affiliation
  • Human Resources Management
  • Volunteer Management
  • Financial, Facility and Risk Management
  • Public Relations
  • Planning and Evaluation
  • Record-Keeping
  • Inclusiveness and Diversity

Of particular import to judges involved with CASA/GAL programs are the following:

  • CASA Mission: The purpose of a CASA member program is to provide court appointed volunteer advocacy to abused and neglected children. The program’s goal is a safe, permanent and nurturing home for every child it serves.
    • The child population is clearly defined as abused/neglected children.
    • The program provides trained and qualified community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who come before the court as a result of abuse or neglect.
    • The program ensures that volunteers have regular and sufficient in-person contact with the child to enable them to have in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact-based recommendations to the court. The CASA volunteer should meet in person with the child once every 30 days at a minimum unless an exception has been granted by the program.
    • The CASA program has been granted the legal authority to operate through state or local statute, executive or judicial order or court rules.
    • The nonprofit or publicly administered CASA program must have a written agreement, which must be renewed every four years, with the juvenile or family court it serves that defines the working relationship between the program and the court.

  • Governance: The CASA/GAL member program must have a governing body responsible for overseeing the program’s compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, adoption of policies, definition of services, guidance of program development and ensuring the program’s accountability to the courts and community. The program must have access to legal counsel for advice in the governing of its operation, procure sufficient financial resources and manage them prudently. High standards of ethical conduct are required in the operation of a CASA member program as are clear lines of accountability and authority.

  • Program Development and Implementation: The CASA member program engages in a comprehensive planning and implementation process that guides development. Included in the planning process are gaining the support of the court and other community leaders, creating a steering or planning committee, completing a needs assessment and developing a comprehensive plan that includes specific program development activities.

  • Affiliation With the National CASA Association and State CASA Organization: A CASA member program is a member of the National CASA Association and meets its standards, requirements and policies. In addition, a CASA program is a member of or affiliated with the state CASA association, if one exists, and communicates, collaborates and shares information with its fellow programs in the state.

  • Staff/Volunteer Training, Supervision and Management: The CASA member program follows written policies for the recruitment, selection, diversity, training, retention and supervision of its staff and volunteers. Requirements for volunteers include:
    • A volunteer must be 21 years of age and must have passed all screening requirements including a written application, personal interview, references and checks of criminal records, child protective services records and sex offender registries.
    • Before being assigned to advocate on behalf of a child, the CASA volunteer must complete at least 30 hours of pre-service training using the National CASA Volunteer Training Curriculum or its equivalent, and the volunteer must observe court proceedings if allowable. Each year thereafter, the volunteer must complete 12 hours of in-service training.
    • The CASA program must provide close supervision of its volunteers. Each full-time staff member can supervise no more than 30 volunteers or 45 cases to ensure high-quality advocacy for children.
    • Each CASA volunteer receives a written job description from the local program with responsibilities outlined. CASA volunteers should not be assigned more than two cases at a time unless an exception has been granted by the program.
    • A CASA member program must have a clear conflict of interest policy and guard each child’s confidentiality in the handling of the case.
    • In those cases in which a member program makes the decision to allow volunteers to provide transportation to children, there must be strict policies in place governing same as well as a motor vehicles division records check, a safe driving record, appropriate insurance, staff oversight and guardian consent.
    • The CASA volunteer does not engage in the following activities: taking a child home; giving legal advice or therapeutic counseling; making placement arrangements for the child; or giving money or expensive gifts to the child or family.

  • Financial, Facility and Risk Management: The CASA/GAL member program must manage its operations in accordance with generally accepted financial and risk management practices and applicable federal, state and local requirements.

  • Public Relations: The CASA member program must communicate with its community and other service providers about the program and the needs of the children it serves as well as cooperating with other agencies to plan for needed programs or services for children.

  • Planning, Evaluation and Record-Keeping: The CASA program must maintain management information and data necessary to plan and evaluate its services. The program must also maintain complete, accurate and current case records and follow written policies for the acceptance and assignment of cases.

  • Inclusiveness and Diversity: The CASA program must demonstrate that inclusiveness and diversity are essential components of quality advocacy for the children it serves. The program must adopt and implement an ongoing written plan to guide and measure progress in diversifying its governing body, staff and volunteers.

Monitoring: Compliance with standards will be assessed periodically by National CASA. In the first phase, the focus is on program self-assessment. A local team of individuals from the CASA program will complete the self-assessment and submit it for an independent review, scoring and a report of the program’s compliance. The judge in the court the program serves will receive a copy of the letter indicating when the program is in compliance with standards. National CASA may add a second phase which will involve a system of program monitoring/onsite review.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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