Family Court of the State of Delaware
The Delaware CASA Program began in New Castle County in 1981 and expanded statewide by 1983. The program has received continuous support from the judiciary, public and private child welfare agencies, and community groups. In 1985, authorizing legislation was passed by the State legislature without a dissenting vote. The statute was revised in 2000, also without a dissenting vote. (The bill amending this statute was signed into law on July 21, 2000). The program has received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Volunteer Programs, state recognition for effectiveness in promoting permanency planning for children, and two Awards of Excellence from the National CASA Association. In 1991, both houses of the Delaware General Assembly passed resolutions honoring the work of CASA volunteers and staff in recognition of the program's tenth year of operation.
There are over 200 CASA volunteers in Delaware. The ethnic profile of the volunteers generally reflects the population of the community. Most of the volunteers are female. Statewide, the number of CASA volunteers has doubled since 1991. On the average, each active CASA is assigned to 1-2 cases and represents 2-3 (2.33) children at a time. CASA volunteers in Delaware currently represent children, approximately half of the abused/neglected children in foster care in the state. In 2007, the program served 549 children.
A CASA is authorized by statute to request a hearing whenever any plan for a child is not being carried out or is not meeting the child's needs.
Volunteer Role, Standing, and Relationship with the Court
By state statute (31 Del.C. §3601-3612), the CASA volunteer serves as guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children who come before the Court and is appointed through an order executed by a Family Court Judge. The CASA is charged with representing the best interest of the child and is a full party to court proceedings. Contract attorneys represent the CASA volunteers in Court proceedings and provide legal advice to the program. The state statute outlines the qualifications, appointment, duties, rights, and status of CASA volunteers. The statue also addresses confidentiality; authorizes the CASA to access information; and provides liability protection for the program volunteers, staff, and attorneys.
The Delaware CASA Program has been a member in good standing of the National CASA Association throughout the history of NCASAA.
National CASA Association
The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child with a safe, permanent, nurturing home.
The Need We Address
One million American children are confirmed victims of abuse and neglect each year, and more than 500,000 children live in foster care. These children were removed from their families and the place they called home. Unfortunately, many can become a victim a second time in an overwhelmed child welfare system that does not allow for close attention to each child and their needs or wants. These children need someone to speak up for them to ensure their timely placement in safe, secure, permanent homes where they will have a chance to thrive.
There are 195,879 children under 18 in Delaware. Many face substantial challenges every day. In 2005, 5,799 children in Delaware were reported abused. During 2001 to 2005 there were 3 child abuse deaths. During FY 2007, Delaware had 1,615 children in foster care.
In Delaware, there are over 1000 children involved in child welfare court proceedings. As dependents of the State, these children pass through a court system which can leave them frightened, confused and alone. We are focused on providing legal representation for every child involved foster care, or other identified court proceedings by a Family Court Judge. Due to limited volunteer resources, we have not accomplished meeting all the children's needs. Therefore we continue to recruit volunteers statewide to address this goal.
CASA Volunteers are powerful, effective and caring advocates for abused children. A CASA is appointed by a Family Court Judge to speak out for the best interest of the child.
Every year CASA Volunteers work to ensure that children are placed in secure, nurturing homes with hope for a positive future. In most cases, this means returning to their parents once their safety is assured. In others, it means finding other means of permanency with relatives or non relatives rather than remaining in temporary care.
CASA Programs across United States as well as in Delaware have positive impacts that are hailed by many judges and documented in several studies. CASA has been formally recognizes as an outstanding advocacy and prevention program by the US Department of Justice.
Delaware Family Court CASA Program provides quality advocacy and strives to continue to grow in meeting the needs of the most needy and vulnerable children before court proceedings. The CASA Program has an office in Family Court in each county within the state. As a volunteer–driven organization, the CASA program is an extremely efficient means to make a major impact for abused and neglected children.
The Delaware Family Court's CASA Program is a member in good standing of the National CASA Association. National CASA provides information, standards, training, technical assistance, grants, and legislative advocacy to help local programs. The work of National CASA is supported by such organizations as the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association, Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, and Kiwanis International. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice named CASA as an “Exemplary National Program in Juvenile Delinquency Prevention”. The Delaware CASA Program is a long time leader in the national CASA movement.
The CASA program is authorized by 31 Del.C.§3601-3612 and 10 Del.C.§925
The vision of the Family Court CASA Program is:
- to improve outcomes for more children
- to continuously increase program quality
- to recruit volunteers from diverse backgrounds
- to continuously improve volunteer effectiveness
Our Plan of Action
- To provide advocacy and independent factual information to the court regarding abused, neglected, and dependent children.
- To insure legal representation of the child's best interest in all judicial proceedings
- To monitor cases involving abused, neglected, and dependent children until the terms of a court order have been fulfilled and or a safe & permanent home has been achieved for the child(ren).