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Promising Practice Spotlight

Richland County CASA, Columbia, South Carolina

The National CASA Association Promising Practice Spotlight Award highlights a successful and replicable practice that exemplifies creativity in a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)/guardian ad litem (GAL) program’s pursuit to provide quality advocacy to abused and neglected children.

Three years ago, with child maltreatment on the rise and the system strained, Richland County CASA was experiencing volunteer turnover due to frustration with the child welfare system. The Department of Social Services (DSS) seemed like a revolving door, and some of Richland CASA’s frustrations were quite simple. CASA volunteers needed to know the social worker on their case, where their CASA child had been moved, or the contact information for the child’s family members.

To create a lifeline between DSS and Richland County CASA, the program created a new position in July 2014—the CASA/DSS Liaison. This CASA staff member is ‘housed’ at Richland County Department of Social Services, rather than the CASA office. The liaison’s primary duty is to provide information to the program’s 600-plus CASA volunteers, who immediately embraced this service. As the program’s chief information gatherer, the liaison’s phone never stops ringing.

The CASA/DSS Liaison works alongside DSS workers to build a positive working relationship between the CASA program and DSS. The liaison knows all of the department’s staff members, participates in their activities, and is able to obtain much of the needed information without intrusion. Information that used to take days to obtain is now available within hours, eliminating 90 percent of volunteers’ frustrations.

The value it has brought to Richland County CASA staff members, volunteers,and the children served cannot be overstated. The liaison position has created program capacity by freeing up staff time, providing heightened advocacy services, and dramatically increasing volunteer retention by improving communication with critical members of the child’s team.

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