Child Advocacy Programs
The Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) program provides support to statewide non-profit groups that train volunteer advocates. These advocates are appointed by judges to provide information and advice about a child to the courts.
State statutes require the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in abuse and neglect proceedings. CASA volunteers go through an intensive 30-hour training program to become a Guardian ad Litem before being appointed by a district court judge.
The CASA/GAL network has continued to grow in the last year, adding more children, volunteers and programs. The network currently includes 17 programs, including two satellite offices and one tribal programs.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate programs currently serve 860 children in 40counties, according to statistics compiled in late 2004. There are 280 volunteers who gave 16,000 volunteer hours in child service during that time. Based on $12 an hour, that time is valued at $192,000.
The programs are still serving less than 50 percent of the children in foster care, according to statistics from the Department of Public Health and Human Services. The ultimate goal for this program is to provide a CASA worker for every child involved in an abuse and neglect case.
Three new CASA programs have been developed in the 5th, 6th and 20th Judicial Districts in the last 2 years.
And finally, the Court Assessment Program (CAP) is preparing for its reassessment in 2005. The review will measure the progress of abused and neglected children in the court system in the areas of child safety, permanency, and child and family well-being. CAP continues to fund various projects, such as CASA programs, a parents’ educational program in Great Falls, and training for the judiciary, which are instrumental in decreasing a child’s stay in foster care. CAP also continues to provide oversight for many of the drug courts operating in the state.