All children have a right to a home with loving people to care for them. However, each year in the United States, millions of children are abused, neglected, or abandoned by their families. Over 700,000 children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care or institutions. Eventually, they end up in court. Their only "crime" is that they have been victims.
In Washington state, more than 10,000 abused and neglected children are caught up in the court system, where a judge decides their future.
In these cases, many children become victims a second time, lost in an overburdened child welfare system that cannot pay close attention to each child. Sometimes a child can remain adrift in foster care for months, even years, losing all sense of security and permanency.
What exactly is the CASA/Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program?
The CASA/Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program provides court-appointed special advocates for dependent children who are victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect.
The program's goal is to ensure that a child’s right to a safe and permanent family is acted on in a sensitive and expedient manner.
Who is the Dependent Child?
Dependent children are defined as those children who are under 18 years of age, who have no parent willing or able to care for them, or who are abandoned, abused, or neglected. A Volunteer Guardian ad Litem may be appointed for these children to represent what is in their best interests to the court during the dependency process.
What is the role of the Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem (VGAL) is appointed by the court, through the CASA/VGAL Program of Snohomish County Superior Court, to serve as an advocate and spokesperson for the best interests of a child who is the subject of a Dependency proceeding in Superior Court.
The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem is a party to all legal proceedings involving the child and, barring withdrawal or removal, serves as an advocate for the duration of the case. The VGAL has no control over the person or property of the dependent child, does not provide a home for the child, and does not serve as the child’s legal guardian.