History of Indiana GAL/CASA
The Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA, established in 1990, certifies and provides training and support to local GAL/CASA programs in 79 Indiana counties. The local GAL/CASA programs provide trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court, helping to ensure children’s needs are met while they are in foster care and that these children have a safe and permanent home as quickly as possible. Indiana has one of the largest networks of GAL/CASA programs in the nation. Indiana volunteers spoke for 26,762 abused and neglected children in cases in 2016; nonetheless, thousands of children are still waiting for a volunteer.
In 2005, the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA became the first state in the nation to be awarded certification by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association. The Indiana State Office and Indiana Supreme Court continue to show their strong commitment to provide effective advocacy for abused and neglected children.
For more information about GAL/CASA programs or to volunteer, contact the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA at 1-800-542-0813.
History of National CASA
In 1977, the concept of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program was introduced in Seattle, Washington. Seattle Juvenile Court Judge David W. Soukup realized that children who entered the legal system due to abuse or neglect in their own homes were often inadvertently re-victimized by courts and public social service agencies who were over-burdened, understaffed and woefully lacking in resources. Lawyers typically represented the interests of the parents and the state. Seldom did someone speak exclusively for the child, the party who arguably had the most at stake in the proceeding. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act enacted in 1974 prompted states to adopt legislation that provided representation for the child's best interests during judicial proceedings, and attorney guardians ad litem generally did not have the time, training nor resources to conduct the kind of in-depth fact-finding needed to represent the best long term interests of children.
Once Judge Soukup recognized the problem, he looked to community volunteers for a solution. He personally recruited and trained volunteers to serve as guardians ad litem for children who entered the child welfare system.
The idea caught the attention and approval of the Children in Placement Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and in 1978 the Committee adopted the model that came to be known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Indiana law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a trained court appointed special advocate in abuse and neglect cases. Moreover, if a child becomes the subject of a petition to terminate the parent/child relationship and the parent objects, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem or CASA for the child. In addition to the abuse and neglect cases, Indiana law allows for and Indiana courts are now frequently appointing CASA volunteers in custody and paternity cases. Although of the number of volunteers who provide an invaluable service to Indiana trial courts is remarkable, the need for more volunteers is ongoing.
For more information regarding the opportunity to serve as a volunteer CASA or Guardian ad Litem, contact the Indiana Office of Court Services.