For Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) GALs
Who can be a CASA GAL?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, is a volunteer guardian ad litem (GAL) who assists the court in child protection cases. CASA GALs come from all walks of life.
What does a CASA GAL do?
CASA GALs gather facts, conduct interviews, prepare reports to the court, and testify at hearings. This extremely valuable assistance helps the court determine the best interest of the child in child protection cases.
In which types of cases are CASA GALs appointed?
CASA GALs are appointed only in child protection cases. See the Child Protection Cases web page for more information.
How to apply to become a CASA GAL
- Complete the CASA Volunteer Application, including:
- A criminal history background check; and
- A child protection background check by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (the Department).
- Once your application is complete, Maine CASA will invite you for a personal interview if it looks like you will be a good fit for the program.
- You may then be invited to attend a CASA GAL core training for volunteers.
- After completing the training and a post-training interview, you may be added to the CASA GAL volunteer list.
CASA GAL Core Training
The Maine State Bar Association will announce the next GAL core training on its website when it is scheduled. For more information, visit the MSBA website.
Maine CASA, within the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), offers multi-day trainings once or twice a year. Before being assigned his or her first case, a CASA GAL must complete this 30-hour training on a variety of topics, including:
- Dynamics of domestic abuse and its effect on children;
- Dynamics of separation and divorce and their effects on children;
- Child development;
- Timing and impact of court-related events from a child’s perspective;
- The effects of abuse, neglect, and trauma on children;
- Substance abuse; mental health; family finances, and the financial impact of separation and divorce;
- Legal issues and processes;
- Ethics and professionalism as a GAL;
- The duties and obligations of the guardian ad litem as an agent of the court; and
- Interviewing techniques.
Continuing Professional Education
Maine CASA offers free continuing professional education for CASA GALs regularly.
After being added to the CASA GAL list, how is one assigned to a case?
A Maine CASA Legal Services Advisor (a staff member within the AOC) will contact you when a child protection case becomes available in your geographic region. The CASA Legal Services Advisor will provide you with a brief overview of the case, including what caused the Department to file a Petition for a Child Protection Order, the safety concerns alleged by the Department, and scheduled court dates. It is entirely up to you to decide if you would like to be appointed.
If you would like to be appointed, Maine CASA will contact the court and ask the court to appoint you in the case.
Duties of a CASA GAL
If you accept an assignment in a child protection case, you will:
- Interview and meet with the child (or children) every 30 days;
- Review all mental health, medical, and school records;
- Interview parents, foster parents, teachers, caseworkers, and other people who have been involved in caring for or treating the child;
- File a written report with the court before all court hearings;
- Recommend appropriate services to the court to protect the child’s interests; and
- Attend all court hearings in the case.
As a CASA GAL, you may also call witnesses to testify at hearings and be called as a witness or cross-examined by the Department or the parents’ attorneys at hearings.
Child protection cases commonly involve several court events, including a case management conference, a jeopardy hearing, and one or more judicial reviews. As a CASA GAL, you will have an important role at each stage of the case. See Child Protection Cases for more information.
Support and assistance to CASA GALs
CASA GALs receive ongoing mentoring, support, and oversight by experienced CASA Legal Services Advisors during a case. Advisors accompany CASA GALs to court hearings when needed, and review all reports prior to submission to the court. Advisors do not, however, participate in any direct investigative activities.
Maine CASA also provides an attorney to represent a CASA GAL in a case, if needed.
CASA GAL FAQs
Does a person have to have a certain background, training, or education to be a CASA GAL?
No. CASA GALs come from all walks of life and possess a variety of educational and ethnic backgrounds. Nationally, 50% of the more than 76,000 CASA volunteers are also employed in full-time or part-time jobs.
How does a CASA GAL investigate a case?
To prepare a report for the court, the CASA GAL meets with the child, the child’s parents, other family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child. The CASA GAL reviews all records pertaining to the child – school, medical and caseworker reports, and other documents.
How does a CASA GAL differ from the Department caseworker?
Caseworkers are employed by the Department and oversee many child protection cases at a time. Caseworkers are responsible for working with families to assess child safety and make plans that best meet the safety, well-being, and permanency needs of their children. A CASA GAL is an agent of the court who conducts an in-depth investigation of the facts in a specific child protection case to help the court determine what is in the best interest of the child. The CASA GAL is the judge’s “eyes and ears” in the case.
How does a CASA GAL differ from a rostered attorney GAL?
In the eyes of the court, they have the same role. CASA GALs and rostered GALs are subject to the same Maine Rules for Guardians Ad Litem. However, CASA GALs have more responsibilities under the Maine CASA Policies and Procedures. Rostered GALs must visit with the child at least once every three (3) months and file a report with the court at least once every six (6) months. Maine CASA GALs are required to visit with the child at least once every 30 days and must file a report for every court appearance. The additional time a CASA GAL spends with the child allows the CASA GAL to better advise the court on the child’s wishes. CASA GALs provide unique insight to the court because of the time spent with the child.
How many cases is a CASA GAL assigned at one time?
The number varies, but an average caseload is one to two. How many cases a CASA GAL has at one time is entirely up to the CASA GAL, but usually it is no more than two.
How effective has CASA GAL program been?
The importance of the work done by CASA GALs cannot be overstated. Many people say it is the most rewarding volunteer work they have ever done. Research suggests that children who have a CASA GAL have a better chance of finding permanent homes than children without a CASA. In addition, children and their families receive more needed services than those who do not have a CASA GAL involved in their case.
How much time does the CASA GAL program require?
Each case is different. A CASA GAL usually spends about 10 hours doing research and conducting interviews in the first weeks of the case. More complicated cases take longer. After the initial work on a case, CASA GALs usually spend no more than 10-15 hours a month.
How long does a CASA GAL remain involved with a case?
The CASA GAL continues until the case is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the CASA program is that, unlike other participants (attorneys for parents, caseworkers, etc.), the CASA GAL is a consistent figure in the case and provides continuity for the child.
How can I learn more about being a CASA GAL?
Please contact us if you have questions about being a CASA GAL.
Administrative Office of the Courts - Guardian ad Litem Services
1 Court Street, Suite 301, Augusta, ME 04330
Telephone: (207) 213-2865