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.
In the third section CASAs provide the factual information on which they base their opinions and recommendations. This section should contain only the facts that were found during visitations, interviews, and research since the last court report. Behaviors, situations, and important information from reviewed materials are also to be described. All information should be given with its source and can include direct quotes from the people interviewed. Quotes must be correct and not taken out of context.
This section should contain descriptions of the CASA's visits with the child and the interviews with people about the case. Descriptions should include the child's placement, development (emotional and physical), academic work, and any services received. The CASA should also address the services that have been provided to the parents. Descriptions should not include the address of where the child is staying or the last name of the foster parents. Services should be explained by the type offered, how often the child receives the services, who is providing the services, and the results of the services.
For the child's academic needs, court reports should address how the child is doing in school. Note any changes, positive or negative. Also, the report should contain descriptions of any learning disorders or special needs that have or have not been met, including the services offered for these special needs.
The Assessment Section must address a CASA's experiences with the parents of the child. Visitations with the child are to be described, how well the parents and child interact, and any services that are needed by the family to allow the child to be returned home, if appropriate.
Court reports must be objective. Any statements or observations must be supported by factual information, witnesses, and quotes. Without a basis in fact, assessments can be challenged as being biased and uninformed. Court report descriptions should also be as short and direct as feasible. Important details cannot be left out, but clear descriptions do not need redundancy.
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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