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Research and Effectiveness

Research and Effectiveness

Results from CASA/GAL studies selected based on their high methodological quality

Research that Supports the Effectiveness of CASA/GAL Best-Interest Advocacy

The National CASA/GAL Association for Children is committed to using fact-based knowledge, building toward becoming a data-informed, evidence-based organization. This will allow the CASA/GAL network to continue to grow its efforts to ensure children and families served have the greatest opportunity to thrive.

Many independent academic studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of best-interest advocacy and the CASA/GAL network. Below is a summary of results from CASA/GAL studies selected based on their high methodological quality:

Judges’ Perspective on CASA/GAL Volunteer Advocacy

Judges have reported that CASA/GAL volunteers or staff have the most significant impact on promoting long-term well-being (92.2%), followed by ensuring appropriate services for children and families (83%) and promoting psychological well-being (79.9%).
  • Weiner, D., Farrell, A., Gitlow, E., Small, L., Kim, K., Anderson, C., & Goerge, R. (2020). The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program: Judicial perspectives survey and the path to evidence. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
CASA/GAL volunteers or staff are highly effective in court, with all or almost all their recommendations being accepted by presiding judges.
  • Gershun, M., & Terrebonne, C. (2018). Child welfare system interventions on behalf of children and families: Highlighting the role of court-appointed special advocates. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 48(5), 119-129.
The vast majority (93%) of judges report a positive overall experience with the CASA/GAL program.
  • Weiner, D., Farrell, A., Gitlow, E., Small, L., Kim, K., Anderson, C., & Goerge, R. (2020). The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program: Judicial perspectives survey and the path to evidence. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

Promoting Stability and Permanency

CASA/GAL volunteers or staff tend to serve children with the most complex and severe cases.
  • Osborne, C., Warner-Doe, H., & Lawson, J. (2019). Who gets a CASA? Selective characteristics of children appointed a CASA advocate. Children and Youth Services Review, 98, 65-71.
Children appointed a CASA/GAL volunteer or staff experience significantly fewer placements than children in foster care who are not appointed a CASA/GAL staff or volunteer.
  • Gershun, M., & Terrebonne, C. (2018). Child welfare system interventions on behalf of children and families: Highlighting the role of court-appointed special advocates. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 48(5), 119-129.
Children assigned CASA/GAL volunteers or staff are much less likely to return to the child welfare system. In fact, compared to children who do not have a CASA/GAL volunteer or staff, the proportion of reentries is consistently reduced by half.
  • Gershun, M., & Terrebonne, C. (2018). Child welfare system interventions on behalf of children and families: Highlighting the role of court-appointed special advocates. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 48(5), 119-129.
CASA/GAL volunteers or staff play a critical role in supporting families by connecting parents with services aimed at securing safe and permanent housing and other support services that can aid in the reunification of their children.
  • Katz, C., Moles, K., Grauwiler, P., & Post, S. (2020). The context-specific service provision of CASA. Child Welfare, 98(2), 63-84.
Foster parents have reported that CASA/GAL volunteers or staff play a critical role in bridging the gap in communication and information, thereby promoting positive sibling relationships among children in their care.
  • Wojciak, A.S., Range, B. P., Gutierrez, D.M., Hough, N.A., & Gamboni, C.M. (2018). Sibling relationships in foster care: Foster parent perspective. Journal of Family Issues, 39(9), 2590-2614.
In their recommendations to the courts, CASA/GAL volunteers often emphasize the considerable influence of transportation challenges, closely linked with poverty, on parents involved in child welfare cases. These challenges impose extra burdens on parents in complying with court-ordered services and ultimately hinder reuniting families.
  • Findley, E., & Crutchfield, J. (2021). Accessibility of transportation to child-welfare involved parents and the related impact on court-ordered service participation. Child & Family Social Work, 27, 478-489.

Fostering Child Well-Being and Helping them Achieve Their Full Potential

Children who are appointed CASA/GAL volunteers or staff have higher rates of case monitoring and service referrals compared to those who are not appointed CASA/GAL volunteers or staff.
  • Katz, C., Moles, K., Grauwiler, P., & Post, S. (2020). The context-specific service provision of CASA. Child Welfare, 98(2), 63-84.
  • Gershun, M., & Terrebonne, C. (2018). Child welfare system interventions on behalf of children and families: Highlighting the role of court-appointed special advocates. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 48(5), 119-129.
Compared to children without a CASA/GAL volunteer or staff, those who have one tend to achieve better outcomes, as reflected in their academic and behavioral performance in school. Specifically, they are more likely to pass all their courses, avoid expulsion, and have better conduct performance.
  • Waxman, H., Houston, R., Profilet, S., & Sanchez, B. (2009). The long-term effects of the Houston Child Advocates, Inc., program on children and family outcomes. Child Welfare, 88(6), 23-46.
Transition-age youth refer to their CASA/GAL volunteers or staff as “fierce advocates” who are relentless in sharing information, helping youth acquire benefits, and building relationships with other professionals (such as attorneys, social workers, and mentors).
  • Katz, C., & Geiger, J. (2023). The role of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) in the lives of transition-age youth with foster care experience. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 40, 17-27.
CASA/GAL volunteers or staff play a crucial role in the lives of the children they serve by providing assistance that other professionals involved in the case may be unable to provide.
  • Brocious, H., & Trawver, K.R., & Griffin, R. (2021). Supporting and expanding statewide CASA programs. Juvenile & Family Court Journal, 72(2), 41-58.

Cited Research Studies

Brocious, H., & Trawver, K.R., & Griffin, R. (2021). Supporting and expanding statewide CASA programs. Juvenile & Family Court Journal, 72(2), 41-58.
  • The article discusses the importance of CASA/GAL programs in supporting abused and neglected children in the court system. It outlines CASA programs’ history, development, and challenges, including limited resources and increasing demand. The authors suggest strategies for expanding and improving CASA programs, such as increasing funding and recruiting and training more volunteers. The article emphasizes the vital role that CASA/GAL volunteer advocates play in ensuring the well-being of vulnerable children and encourages continued support, development, and expansion of programs.
Findley, E., & Crutchfield, J. (2021). Accessibility of transportation to child-welfare involved parents and the related impact on court-ordered service participation. Child & Family Social Work, 27, 478-489.
  • This qualitative study interviewed nine CASA volunteers in a large Southeastern city to gain perspectives on how transportation impacts child welfare-involved families’ service participation. Three main themes emerged from the interviews: 1) the wide-ranging challenges families face, 2) how transportation is linked to the success of court-ordered services, and 3) practical recommendations for transportation justice. The study revealed the significant transportation challenges CPS-involved families face, which are closely linked to material hardship (i.e., the inability of parents to afford necessities essential for a basic standard of living) and poverty. The lack of or limited access to transportation can affect parents’ ability to comply with court-order services and impact the outcomes of their cases, including family reunification. The recommendations from this research offer initial guidance to address these disparities and help these families in their journey toward reunification.
Gershun, M., & Terrebonne, C. (2018). Child welfare system interventions on behalf of children and families: Highlighting the role of court-appointed special advocates. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 48(5), 119-129.
  • This qualitative study interviewed nine CASA volunteers in a large Southeastern city to gain perspectives on how transportation impacts child welfare-involved families’ service participation. Three main themes emerged from the interviews: 1) the wide-ranging challenges families face, 2) how transportation is linked to the success of court-ordered services, and 3) practical recommendations for transportation justice. The study revealed the significant transportation challenges CPS-involved families face, which are closely linked to material hardship (i.e., the inability of parents to afford necessities essential for a basic standard of living) and poverty. The lack of or limited access to transportation can affect parents’ ability to comply with court-order services and impact the outcomes of their cases, including family reunification. The recommendations from this research offer initial guidance to address these disparities and help these families in their journey toward reunification.
Katz, C., & Geiger, J. (2023). The role of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) in the lives of transition-age youth with foster care experience. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 40, 17-27.
  • This qualitative study examined the role of CASA volunteers for transition-age youth (TAY) in New York City. The study interviewed 15 TAY, aged 18 to 22, appointed a CASA volunteer about the services they received and the support their CASA volunteer advocates provided. Findings revealed that CASA volunteers play a vital role in the lives of TAY, providing personalized support, fierce advocacy, and encouragement. The CASA volunteers offer individualized attention and support not always available from other professionals or agencies. CASA volunteers are often more accessible than other services and can provide immediate help. The CASA volunteers’ advocacy is described as fierce, with an unwavering commitment to advocating for the best interests of the TAY. They work tirelessly to ensure that the TAY’s needs are met, and their voices are heard. The CASA volunteers’ encouragement is also critical to their role, providing hope, motivation, and support to help the TAY achieve their goals. The study highlights the need for a collaborative approach to supporting young people during their transition to adulthood. The CASA volunteers’ unique role in providing personalized support, fierce advocacy, and encouragement is essential, but they cannot do it alone. The authors suggest collaboration between CASA volunteers, social workers, educators, and other professionals is necessary to provide comprehensive and effective support for TAY.
Katz, C. & Geiger, J. (2019). “We need that person that doesn’t give up on us”; The role of social support in the pursuit of post-secondary education for transition-aged youth with foster care experience. Child Welfare, 97(6), 145-164.
  • This qualitative study explores the significance of social support for transition-aged youth (TAY) who have experienced foster care in their pursuit of post-secondary education. The study involved 15 young adults aged 19-23 with foster care backgrounds appointed a CASA volunteer in New York City. Through interviews, four themes emerged: the decline of formal support, the high stakes of full-service post-secondary programs, self-reliance, and friendships and peers as sources of support. The study highlights that the CASA volunteer was cited as an essential support source enabling and facilitating post-secondary education once appointed to the study participants. The study emphasizes the need for ongoing support for these vulnerable youths as they face challenges transitioning to adulthood and pursuing higher education.
Katz, C., Moles, K., Grauwiler, P., & Post, S. (2020). The context-specific service provision of CASA. Child Welfare, 98(2), 63-84.
  • This study examined the nature of services provided by CASA in New York City to children and youth, as well as birth parents, over two years. The study identified four primary findings: (1) case monitoring emerged as the most prevalent form of service provision; (2) CASA-NYC commonly assisted both youth and birth parents; (3) the organization was often focused on helping families secure permanent housing; and (4) CASA-NYC was frequently involved in facilitating administrative processes that enabled interstate transfers of youth. The study further underscores the importance of customizing CASA services to the specific needs of each child and family and highlights the need for ongoing training and support for CASA volunteers to ensure effective service delivery.
Osborne, C., Warner-Doe, H., & Lawson, J. (2019). Who gets a CASA? Selective characteristics of children appointed a CASA advocate. Children and Youth Services Review, 98, 65-71.
  • This study investigated the characteristics of the foster care population in Texas (N=32,349) who were eligible for appointment of a CASA volunteer over two years. Of these children, 56% were appointed CASA volunteers, while the remaining 44% were not. The results indicate that younger children with siblings in foster care, those placed in group homes, and those with a history of maltreatment were more likely to be appointed a CASA volunteer. Moreover, children who had been in out-of-home care for an extended period were more likely to have a CASA volunteer suggesting that such appointments may respond to the child’s prolonged stay in the foster care system. This study supports previous research demonstrating judges’ tendency to appoint CASA volunteers to more complex cases, underscoring the selective nature of these appointments and offering valuable insights into the types of children who may benefit most from best-interest advocacy.
Waxman, H., Houston, R., Profilet, S., & Sanchez, B. (2009). The long-term effects of the Houston Child Advocates, Inc., program on children and family outcomes. Child Welfare, 88(6), 23-46.
  • This study investigated the long-term effects on children participating in the Houston (Texas) Child Advocates, Inc. program. The study was conducted in the Harris County Court system and included 581 children. The results indicate that children with CASA volunteers showed better outcomes across various processes and outcome measures. Specifically, they received more social services (consistent with previous research) and experienced fewer placements. Additionally, the study found that children assigned CASA volunteers tended to perform better academically and behaviorally during the academic year, as indicated by passing all courses, demonstrating positive school conduct, and a lower likelihood of being expelled than non-CASA assigned children.
Weiner, D., Farrell, A., Gitlow, E., Small, L., Kim, K., Anderson, C., & Goerge, R. (2020). The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program: Judicial perspectives survey and the path to evidence. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
  • Researchers from Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago conducted a study to explore and define CASA/GAL intervention in local courts and communities. Key findings of the study include: a majority of judges who utilized CASA/GAL volunteers expressed a desire to have them assigned to every case; over 93% of judges reported a highly positive overall experience with the program; judges reported that the impact of CASA/GAL volunteers was most significant in promoting long-term well-being (92.2%), followed by ensuring appropriate services to children and families (83%) and supporting psychological well-being (79.9%). In addition, 79.5% of judges cited the lack of volunteer or program availability as a reason for not appointing CASA/GAL volunteers to cases.
Wojciak, A.S., Range, B. P., Gutierrez, D.M., Hough, N.A., & Gamboni, C.M. (2018). Sibling relationships in foster care: Foster parent perspective. Journal of Family Issues, 39(9), 2590-2614.
  • This study explored how foster parents perceive and encourage sibling relationships among youth placed in their care. The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 foster parents and analyzed the data using thematic analysis. Three themes emerged: (1) experiences of sibling relationships in foster care, (2) how foster parents treat sibling relationships, and (3) how foster parents promote sibling relationships. The study’s third theme highlighted the critical role that CASA/GAL volunteers play in promoting positive sibling relationships among children in foster care. Foster parents reported that CASA/GAL volunteers bridge communication gaps and provide valuable information that helps promote sibling relationships. The study emphasizes the importance of training CASA/GAL volunteers to facilitate the protective factor of continuity of sibling relationships among children in foster care.