Posts Tagged ‘CASA’

Last year in Texas, there were 58,644 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect. That’s one child victimized every 9 minutes!

60% of these victims were 6 years old or younger!

If these statistics aren’t sobering enough, 48,795 children were in Texas’ child protection system – a system that in December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled it failed to protect the children in its care – ultimately violating their constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. 

The 2016 Department of Family & Protective Services Data Book revealed that 222 children died due to abuse or neglect! If that many pets were killed from abuse, every news outlet across the country would be reporting on it! But when a child dies from abuse there is rarely more than a blip on the news outlets! 

In 2017 New Hampshire’s nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the state and the Division for Children, Youth & Families for the alleged sexual assaults on two young girls while in DCYF care.

Bedford attorney Rus Rilee sued the state, Easter Seals of New Hampshire and CASA NH on behalf of the adoptive parents of two girls, J.B. and N.B., who were “horrifically” sexually assaulted by their biological parents while the DCYF, CASA and Easter Seals were supposed to be supervising the case, according to the lawsuit. 

The biological parents are serving life prison sentences after they were convicted of assaulting the girls during unsupervised visits arranged by the DCYF and CASA, and videotaping the assaults. The girls were ages 4 and 18 months at the time. 

But Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson ruled that the judicial immunity that protects a judge from legal action extends to CASA-NH, because its volunteers act as an arm of the court by advocating for the interests of abused children. Abramson explained that CASA’s role in recruiting, training and supervising volunteers, known as “guardians ad litem,” entitles the organization to the same immunity protections. Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents the children’s grandparents, appealed Abramson’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

In May of 2018 the state had agreed to pay $6.75 million to settle a suit brought by the grandparents of two young girls who were sexually abused by their parents while under the supervision of New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. 

Under the settlement, each child will receive $3.125 million and their grandparents, who have adopted the girls, will receive $500,000. The money will come from the state’s general fund and be released as soon as Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson officially signs off on the deal, said Rus Rilee, the attorney representing the family. “They’re not doing well.” Rilee said. “They need serious treatment. And now they’re going to be able to afford it.” 

CASA volunteers, mostly middle class and overwhelmingly white, march into the homes of people who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately people of color. Then they pass judgment on the families and recommend whether they should get their children back. Judges routinely rubber-stamp their recommendations. The demographic information, and the information about judges’ behavior, can be found in the most comprehensive study ever done of CASA – a study commissioned by the National CASA Association itself.

But that wasn’t all the study found. As Youth Today reported at the time, the study “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers”:

  • The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.
  • The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety—so all that extra foster care is for nothing. 
  • The study found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases as the organization’s public relations may lead people to believe.

CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and 2.67 hours per month on cases involving black children.

No matter how desperately they try to spin the findings, the problem is built into the CASA model itself. So they need a better model.

CASAs still can perform a useful service as mentors to foster children and in advocating for services. But children need a real voice in court, a lawyer with a mandate to fight for what is best for the child, and not what’s most convenient for the courts.

I have experienced this myself when CPS placed our grandson in our care. Over a period of months, a CASA worker only visited us one time—and even then, only spent a few minutes talking to us long enough to sign some papers—and never even spoke to our grandson!

DHHS was even worse. Although our grandson’s pediatrician, the pediatrician’s phycologist, and our grandson’s former therapist all agreed that he needed further therapy, DHHS refused to allow us to take him to therapy. We even offered to pay for his therapy ourselves, but they still refused. Their reason? Our grandson had already graduated six weeks of family and group therapy and therefore did not need more therapy.

I don’t believe these are isolated cases.

When children enter the long-term care of the state, there is a general perception that they’ve been saved, and no further help for them is needed. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The sad reality is that kids languishing in foster care means a lifetime of damage and trauma; and they tend to experience bleak outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, mental health illnesses and attachment and abandonment issues.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” If this quote is to be believed, where does that leave us?