I. Scope of Activities
Family Enrichment Group, Inc. is organized and shall be operated as a non-profit corporation formed under the laws of the State of Georgia solely for charitable and educational purposes with the mission to provide trained, screened, and supervised volunteers to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in juvenile court proceedings. The purpose of the Family Enrichment Group, Inc. is to provide a voice for children in court and to present the best interest of the child before the court, the social service system, and the community service providers, thus assuring the child’s right to an appropriate placement and a permanent home for children in Thomas County.
II. Program Management
A. Local CASA Program is a nonprofit organization which is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.
B. The day to day management of the program is the responsibility of the Executive Director including managing program staff, the volunteers, and daily operations.
III. Roles and Responsibilities of a CASA Volunteer
A. A CASA volunteer is an individual of at least 21 years of age who has been screened and trained by a recognized CASA program and appointed by the court to advocate for children who come into the court system primarily as a result of abuse or neglect. The CASA is appointed as the lay guardian ad litem to protect and promote the best interests of the child for as long as the child is under juvenile court jurisdiction or until relieved of duties by the judge.
As an advocate, the volunteer:
1. Acts as an independent gatherer of information whose task it is to review all relevant records and interview the child, parents, case workers, teachers and other persons to ascertain the facts and circumstances of the child’s situation.
2. Determines the best interest of the child with consideration for his or her age, maturity, social and cultural background, taking into account the need for a safe home for the child and the importance of family preservation and permanency planning.
3. Seeks cooperative solutions which will best serve the child’s interests and protect his or her welfare.
4. Is prepared to provide reports of findings and recommendations to the court at each hearing to assure that all the relevant facts are before the court and to ensure that appropriate motions to relieve the child’s situation are filed.
5. Volunteers must make monthly contact with their assigned child. When monthly contact is not possible or advisable, the reason for not making monthly contact must be documented in the child’s file.
6. Appears at all hearings to represent the child’s interests.
7. Explains the role of the CASA and the court proceedings to the child, when appropriate, in language that the child can understand.
8. Requests that clear, specific orders are entered for evaluation, assessment, services, placement and treatment for the child and the child’s family.
9. Advocates for implementation of service plans and dispositional orders to determine whether services ordered by the court are provided in a timely manner and are accomplishing their desired goals.
10. Informs the court promptly if services are not being made available to the child and/or family, if the family fails to take advantage of such services, or if the services are not achieving their purpose. Brings to the court’s attention any violation of orders, new developments, or changes in the child’s circumstances.
11. Advocates for the child’s interests in the mental health, educational, and other community systems.
12. Ensures that a permanent placement plan is developed and is being implemented for any child removed from the custody of his or her own parent or guardian.
13. Remains actively involved in the case until permanency is achieved.
14. A CASA volunteer respects the right to privacy by keeping information that would identify parties involved in CASA cases confidential.
15. Provide, at minimum, quarterly documentation of case activity to the Program.
16. A CASA volunteer abides by the National CASA Association’s code of Ethics.
A CASA volunteer shall not provide direct service delivery to any parties that could:
1. Lead to a conflict of interest or liability problems, or cause a child or a family to become dependent on the CASA volunteer for services that should be provided by other agencies. Examples of inappropriate volunteer practices are: 1. Making placement arrangements for the child or sheltering a child in their home.
2. Giving legal or therapeutic advice.
3. Giving money or expensive gifts to the child or family.
4. Excessive or inappropriate contact with the child. A CASA volunteer may not transport children. A CASA volunteer may not be related to any party involved in the case or be employed in a position which might result in a conflict of interest. Also, a CASA volunteer may not give children or family members their personal home or work numbers unless expressly given specific permission by the CASA supervisor.
IV. Program Policies
1. The recruitment of CASA volunteers and staff will include efforts to involve individuals who reflect the children served in the community in terms of gender ethnicity, and cultural and socio-economic background.
2. CASA volunteers and staff will proceed with mandatory reporting to the Department of family and Children Services when they believe that a child is in imminent danger according to Public Law 93-247. Cooperation with the local county Child Abuse Protocol is also required.
3. CASA volunteers and staff will not transport a child in their vehicle under any circumstances. There could be liability to CASA and the individual doing the transporting should an accident occur and the child is injured.
A CASA maintains strict confidentiality of all information related to a case. When appointed by court order, the CASA has the responsibility to interview all persons having knowledge of the child’s situation and to review documents and reports relating to the child and family. The court order provides authority for access to confidential information. The reproduction and distribution of confidential and personal information related to any child or family should be limited. Documents and reports contained in the records of an agency or institution should be reviewed by appointment in the office of the agency. Documents or reports required as evidence during the adjudicatory hearing would require a subpoena if not already being submitted by the petitioner or another party to the case. All information and records acquired or reviewed by a CASA can be disclosed only to the court or upon court order to a party to the case.
Volunteers should maintain a caseload of no more than two cases at any given time unless it is deemed appropriate, by the Volunteer Coordinator or the Executive Director, that the volunteer handle more cases. This exception must be documented in the volunteer’s file. At no time may a volunteer maintain a caseload of more than five cases.
In the event that a CASA finds it necessary to resign from a case, he or she should immediately notify the local Volunteer Coordinator and provide a written resignation so that proceedings can be initiated with the court to appoint another volunteer to the case.
VIII. Termination Policy Volunteers
Volunteers who do not adhere to the rules and procedures of the CASA program or who fail to satisfactorily perform their volunteer assignment are subject to dismissal. No volunteer will be dismissed until the volunteer has had an opportunity to discuss the reasons for possible dismissal with program staff. Volunteers may be terminated for taking action which:
1. could endanger the child or other parties to a case;
2. is not within the scope of duties and responsibilities of a CASA;
3. violates approved guidelines, local court procedure or law;
4. breaches confidentiality;
5. could adversely affect the confidence of the public in the integrity of the program;
6. is considered gross misconduct or insubordination;
7. is performed while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
8. includes theft or property or misuse of program equipment or materials; or
9. includes failure to satisfactorily perform assigned duties;
10. falsifies his or her application or misrepresents facts during the screening process;
11. existence of child abuse or neglect allegations against the volunteer;
12. existence of a conflict of interest that cannot be resolved. It is the sole discretion of the local CASA program to take immediate disciplinary action up to and including dismissal of a volunteer.
IX. Grievance Policy
In order to deal effectively and efficiently with complaints from individuals and/or organizations regarding the services provided by the CASA program, the following grievance procedures shall be followed by staff, volunteers and board members.
Volunteers If a complaint is lodged against a CASA volunteer, it will be dealt with in the following manner:
1. The Executive Director shall be notified.
2. The matter shall be reviewed and resolved by the Executive Director, or the Executive Committee if the mater involves the Executive Director. Such review shall include contact with the complainant, the volunteer Coordinator, and the volunteer.
If a complaint is lodged against a CASA program staff member, it shall be dealt with in the following manner:
1. The Executive Director shall be notified.
2. The matter shall be reviewed by the Executive Director and shall include contact with the complainant and the staff member.
3. The Executive Director shall determine whether the matter should be taken to the Executive committee for their review. If the matter is referred to the Executive committee for review, it shall be resolved by this committee. Executive Director If a complaint is lodged against the Executive Director, it shall be directed to the Executive committee and dealt with as set forth in
4. All complaints will be treated as confidential.
X. Conflicts of Interest Policy
Because CASAs must exercise independent judgement on behalf of a child and be guided solely by the best interest of the child, employees of the Court or the Department of Family and Children’s Services may not serve as CASAs. Any person who is subject to the policies of either organization should also be disqualified. A volunteer who has had prior non-CASA involvement or knowledge of a family situation may not be appointed to the case. The following may not serve as CASAs:
1. employees of the court;
2. employees of the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS);
3. any person who is subject to the policies of either organization; or
4. a CASA with prior non-CASA involvement or knowledge of a family situation. Board members, employees and volunteers must refrain from positions of conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest. Board members, employees and volunteers may not have direct or indirect financial interest in the assets, leases, business transactions, or professional services of the program. If there may be a business or professional conflict it must be disclosed immediately. Program Staff CASA staff must be free of personal and professional ties which might compromise their objectivity in regard to deprivation proceedings. They should not knowingly engage in other professional or volunteer work through which there is reasonable expectation that they would interact with or gain confidential knowledge of families of abused or neglected children living in the jurisdiction served by the CASA program. If a situation arises in which the volunteer supervisor has prior knowledge regarding a case assigned to the CASA program, another staff person or a volunteer mentor should provide supervision for the case. Board of Directors Any individual with direct professional involvement in deprivation cases in the jurisdiction served by the program should not serve as a voting Director. Also ineligible would be any individual with personal or professional ties which might compromise their objectivity in regard to deprivation cases. It is recommended that program judges, DFCS supervisors, attorneys who provide guardian ad litem representation, etc., serve on an advisory board or in ex-officio capacity. Board members must refrain from participating in any vote where a conflict of interest might occur.