The National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Association, together with its state and local member programs, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home and have the opportunity to thrive. The National CASA Association supports our network of 950 state organizations and local programs, in 49 states and the District of Columbia, through training and technical assistance. The role of local CASA/GAL programs is to recruit, train and support volunteers in providing best interest advocacy to children who have experienced abuse and neglect.
Appointed and empowered directly by the courts, CASA/GAL volunteers advocate for a child’s best interest by providing critical information to judges about the child’s needs and well-being to help the judge make the most well-informed decision. The CASA/GAL model was created 40 years ago and CASA/GAL programs have established themselves and their volunteers as trusted partners with the courts and child welfare professionals. State statutes (and local court rules) specify when the court must or may appoint a best interest advocate to speak for a child who is involved in an abuse and neglect proceeding and whom the court may appoint. In 2018, our programs served a collective 271,800 children with the help of 93,300 dedicated volunteers.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) Appropriation
The CASA Program is a competitively awarded national program administered through the U.S. Department of Justice and is funded by the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee. The CASA program was first recognized and authorized for funding under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 and is currently authorized at $12 million by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The CASA Program was funded at our fully authorized level of $12 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and FY2019.
The White House released its FY 2020 budget to Congress earlier this year and recommended $9 million in funding for the CASA program. This is the same amount the president recommended for the CASA program last year and ultimately, with the strong support of the House and Senate, we received an appropriation of $12 million. The House passed the CJS spending bill with $12.5 million in funding for the CASA program. During House negotiations, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced an amendment that increased the CASA program appropriation from $12 million to $12.5 million. The amendment was adopted on a broad bipartisan basis and ultimately included in the final bill. The Senate passed their FY 2020 CJS subcommittee budget as part of a minibus package and it included $12 million for the CASA Program. The House and Senate must now reconcile the two bills.
Federal funds are critical to strengthening the capacity of CASA/GAL programs throughout the country to meet the needs of child victims currently being served and those who still await a caring, consistent adult to speak for the best interests in the courtroom and in the community. Child welfare systems are in a state of crisis, partly due to a devastating opioid epidemic. More than 440,000 children are in foster care on any given day. The average child in foster care spends more than a year in care. CASA Program funds through DOJ achieve and uphold national standard setting, assessment, accountability, and evaluation across nearly 950 local, state, and tribal programs to promote improved child outcomes and effective stewardship of public investments in victim advocacy. Federal support at the fully authorized level is instrumental to bringing advocacy training and best practice tools into multiple and new emerging issue areas including child sex trafficking, substance abuse and opioid-overuse, and the overmedication of child victims. Technical assistance is made possible to the network on a full range of topics including governance, program management, volunteer management, and evaluation and performance measurement.
How You Can Help: Please let your member of Congress know how important the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/guardian ad litem (GAL) program is to your community and ask that they continue to support the recently passed House-appropriated level of $12.5 million.
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