CASA of Arizona

Court Report Writing - pg. 5

Resources



The seventh section contains information about all of the people directly involved with the case and the names of the people interviewed by the CASA.

Legal parties in a dependency case are only those listed in the court's Minute Entry. Legal parties include the CPS case manager, attorneys for the parents and the children, FCRB, etc. CASA court reports are distributed only to legal parties.

Interested parties are granted the right to notice of and participation in any review or hearing concerning the child. Interested parties may include therapists, foster parents, relatives, friends, etc. If the parents have attorneys, the parents are considered to be interested parties. If the parents do not have attorneys, then the parents are legal parties. Interested parties are not given copies of the CASA report nor are they allowed to be given confidential information. Only the court or CPS can decide to release information to an interested party.

Keeping an accurate and up-to-date Contact Log is very important for a CASA. The CASA will need to be able to identify people and associate the information gathered from those people several months after contact. A CASA may also need to contact those same individuals later. Educational, medical and psychological evaluations can change over time, and by dating when the information was gathered, a CASA can be sure that the information used is the most current available.

See following example:


Persons of Interest and/or Interviewed
James Ducats Child
Karen Ducats Child
Carl Ducats Child
Lisa Walden Biological Mother
Donald Ducats Biological Father
June and Richard James and Karen's former Foster Parents
Helen and Charles James and Karen's Foster Parents
Elaine and John Carl's Foster Parents
Kelly Samuals, MSW CPS Case Manager
Alice Melrondur, PhD Therapist for James
Fred Woodbury School Teacher for James
Edward Smithe Lisa Walden's employer
Maxwell Gibbs, MD DES appointed physician
Howard Mells, Esq. Attorney for Mother
Julie Delmont, Esq. Attorney for Father


Records Reviewed



The last section contains a list all of the written material that was reviewed by the CASA volunteer since the last court report.

The basic guideline for what records should be entered is any piece of material that provided information about the child the CASA represents. This material is in part what the assessments, concerns, and recommendations will be based on.

Records that are to be listed are the Child Protective Services case file, Foster Care Review Board reports, police reports, and medical records that have been read. Other records include letters written by teachers or other people about the child's behavior and welfare. Also, reviewed minute entries and case plan documents should be listed.

Exact titles and dates must be used when available. This allows the assigned judge to look up and review the same documents as the CASA.

See following example:


Records Reviewed List date, title, and author of material
Psychiatrist's assessment of James Dated 10/14/05 by Dr. Alice Melrondur
School report from James' teacher Dated 10/4/05 by Mr. Fred Woodbury
Medical Exam report by Dr. Gibbs Dated 8/11/05 - 8/13/03
CPS case file records Dated 6/8/05-10/22/03
Minute Entry from Dependency Review Hearing Dated 5/12/05


Formatting Notes



There are several points to remember about creating a court report. The most important is the need to remain unbiased. All assessments, recommendations, and conclusions must have a factual basis. Anything written in a report could be challenged by an attorney, so supporting documentation is essential. This also gives the report the added weight of a professional presentation and even prepares a volunteer to answer direct questions in court.

Court reports statewide are to be written in the approved format. This allows judges to find the CASA's analysis and evidence quickly. It also helps the volunteer verify that the report is complete.

Completing a court report is a joint effort between the CASA and the county coordinator. The CASA always needs to have the report reviewed and edited by the county coordinator. This editing process is a cooperative effort. Coordinators may have suggestions about better ways to effectively phrase issues: to help get the volunteer's point across. The coordinator can also verify the court report formatting. The CASA helps the coordinator understand what has been happening in the case and makes sure that the intent of the report is maintained through the editing process. Any changes that the coordinator wishes to make in the court report should be discussed with the CASA who has written the report.

The CASA should follow these three guidelines:

  1. Court reports must be given to the county program office at least 2 weeks prior to the court hearing.
  2. All court reports must be reviewed by the county coordinator.
  3. CASAs are not to send any information directly to the court without first going through the county program office.

     

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