CASA stands for court appointed special advocate. A CASA is a trained, community volunteer who advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children who are involved with the child welfare system. CASA volunteers serve in Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases, Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) cases and sometimes in divorce/custody, paternity, juvenile delinquency and adoption proceedings.
GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem. A GAL also advocates for the best interests of children in court proceedings, including child abuse and neglect, paternity, guardianship, juvenile delinquency, adoption and divorce/custody cases. Under Indiana law, a GAL may be an attorney, a volunteer, or an employee of a certified GAL/CASA program. Attorneys who serve in juvenile court are required to have specialized training.
By statute, a GAL/CASA is appointed by the court to provide the child with services including researching, examining, advocating, facilitating and monitoring a child's situation. The GAL/CASA visits children, gets to know them and how they are doing, what kind of services they may need, and what they hope will happen in the case. The GAL/CASA also reviews documents, talks to other professionals involved in the case and sometimes to the parents or foster parents. The volunteer then prepares a summary for the court and makes independent and objective recommendations to the court about what should happen in the case in order to have the best outcome, which serves the child's best interests.For more information on becoming a GAL or CASA volunteer, visit www.casa.in.gov.