What Is A GAL?
What Do GALs Do For Children in NH?
When a child is abused or neglected in New Hampshire, the judge appoints him/her a guardian ad litem (GAL). GALs do not act as a child’s attorney, and they are not social workers.
Their role is to advocate for what is in the child’s best interests. GALs become the ‘eyes and ears’ of the court, making independent, objective recommendations to the judge about what is best for the child based on the information they have gathered.
CASA volunteers are trained to serve as GALs in New Hampshire’s courts.
What are the duties of a CASA?
Volunteers get to know the child and talk with everyone in that child’s life—parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others.
They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
Summary of duties:
~ Meet with assigned child(ren) face-to-face at least once per month
~ Talk regularly with parents, relatives, foster parents, social workers, teachers and medical providers
~ Help monitor compliance of court orders and restrictions
~ Keep an eye out for any unmet needs of the child
~ Write a court report for each hearing, giving the judge the information gathered
~ Attend each court hearing and speak to the judge about the child’s needs
~ Stay with the case until the child is in a safe, permanent home.
How is a CASA different than a social worker?
Social workers are employed by New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and have a number of children on their caseloads. The social worker is responsible for helping the entire family, including setting up services. The CASA volunteer is an advocate for the child, is not paid, works with just one or two cases, and does not set up services. The CASA volunteer does not replace a social worker on a case; he or she is an independent party and works with the social worker in promoting the child’s best interests.
Is this like being a Big Brother/Big Sister?
CASA is only appointed to children who are in the family court system; that is, a court case has been opened through DCYF. Like the Big Brother/Big Sister Program, CASA volunteers develop a relationship with the child through regular visits. However, the role of the CASA is not limited to this relationship. The CASA also gathers information about the child, writes court reports, and attends the child’s court hearings. CASA volunteers do not purchase gifts for children, and may not transport them or their caregivers.
What is the time commitment?
We ask CASAs to commit to the life of the case, which averages 24 months. CASAs spend 10-15 hours per month volunteering. More time is spent by CASAs at the start of the case learning about the family, and also just before court hearings, when they write their reports.