Sitting in the courtroom waiting for the assigned Judge allows plenty of time to look over the court room spectators. In the audience are the Department of Human Service’s (DHS) employees who have taken it upon themselves to protect children taken from their parents by the police, usually because of parents’ alcohol abuse and/or taking illegal drugs. The safety of the children has been compromised and now the legal system has become involved. Then there is the usual flurry of attorneys, doubling over with their caseload files as they thumb through mounds of legal paperwork.
There is another involvement that is approved by the legal system. That is the appointing of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASAs are in the front line, working closely with children, who have been put into a foster home. The CASAs speak up on behalf of children in court rooms across the country, either with recommendation of returning children to their parents or placing them for adoption with a loving family. CASAs are the voice of each child they represent and they make sure the child’s needs are heard before the judge.
CASAs work very close with a child’s parents, ensuring the parents are following DHS’ service agreement. If appropriate, couples can become involved with Community Family Court and if successfully completing those requirements, may have their legal issues “forgotten.”
When parents, due to their use of illegal drugs or alcohol abuse, lose their children to the legal system, a CASA will be appointed who will represent their child or children in court. In the meantime, foster homes are available, providing safe haven for these children. Visitation by parents will be set up and parents will have to actively partake in a drug and alcohol treatment program, following those treatment requirements. Also offered will be anger management programs, marriage counseling, and additional services where warranted.
The ultimate goal is to reunite children with their parents in a loving home environment. Only then is a CASA’s work legally terminated.