Opinions and Concerns
The fifth section contains the CASAs opinions and concerns. This section is the only area in the court report where a CASA can discuss personal feelings about the case. This is an open forum area to mention anything that the CASA feels the judge should know that was not mentioned in earlier sections.
Comments can be on any aspect of the case that a volunteer feels should be brought up. Discussion about how the case is being handled, services that should be offered that were denied, or even if the current placement is meeting the child's needs can be listed here. The CASA can mention problems that could affect the case but do not have outside evidence supporting the concern. Comments can even cover the number of visitations the parents have or someone the volunteer feels should be allowed to be an interested party.
This section is meant to be a place for personal concerns. By listing concerns, a CASA can give the judge a more personal feel for the case and how well the child is truly being served. The volunteer can discuss how well other legal parties are working with the CASA to help the child under court's supervision. Even though these are opinions, they must still be objective and should not make personal attacks. Stating and outlining problems can be the best way to allow the system to correct them. CASA opinions are important to help the system operate for the best interests of a child.
Remember that this is the only section that should contain a CASA's opinions. All of the previous sections must contain information that can objectively be supported with factual, material, or eye-witness evidence. If opinions are placed in any of the previous sections, those opinions risk weakening the CASA's credibility as an unbiased advocate. The CASA is there to look out for the best interests of the child; if there are doubts about a CASA's objectivity, the CASA's recommendations and assessments will not stand up to a court review.
See the example below:
|Opinions and Concerns
I believe the case plan for reunification is the correct choice for the children. Lisa Walden cares deeply for her children and they love her. The problems that James has been having do not carry over to school and I feel they will clear up once he is back in his own home with his mother.
The services provided have been very helpful to Lisa. She now fully understands the responsibilities for child care rest completely with her. After completing her parenting courses she knows that Donald is not responsible enough to watch after the children and she has arranged with several friends to care for the children in the event that her normal weekday caretaker is unavailable. Mr. Smithe has also offered to give Lisa more flexibility in her job so she can take care of her children if she has problems with scheduling. He knows a valuable employee when he has one. The services for James were not very beneficial for his behavior, but they did confirm that his poor behavior is based on his removal from home and not any underlying physical or mental deficiencies.
Kelly Samuals (case manager) has been a great help to me. Her assistance with the case file review and contact names for people was very important. She saved me many hours of seeking out that information on my own.
Donald Ducats has almost no regard for his children. He places his own fun and entertainment above the well being of the children. He only takes an apparent interest when the child can offer him some sort of benefit. His lack of concern for the children shows that he is their father in genetics alone. Ms. Walden has done a great job raising these children by herself.
The sixth section of the court report is the Recommendations Section. Recommendations should be specific and based on the information provided earlier in the report.
Recommendations can encompass whether the child should remain a ward of the court and whether the current placement is best for the child. Visitation schedule changes and even additional services that should be given for either the child or the parents are also items that can be included in the Recommendations Section.
The first item on the recommendation list should be a statement as to whether the child should be returned immediately to the parents or remain in the court's care. Anything else that a volunteer feels would ultimately benefit the child's well being can be recommended to the court. The benefit should have been addressed in the Assessment, Reasonable Efforts, or in the Opinions and Concerns Section. Factual information will need to be presented for a CASA's recommendations to be taken under consideration by the court. Without a factual basis, a volunteer's recommendations are nothing more than opinions and a court cannot base the future of a child on a personal opinion.
See following example:
I respectfully make the following recommendations:
- That all children remain a ward of the court, committed to the care, custody, and control of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
- That James, Karen, and Carl be reunited with their mother in accordance with the case plan.
- That James receives a follow-up session with the Dr. Melrondur 2 weeks after his return home.
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