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General Summary of GAL/CASA Volunteer Programs in Indiana in 2021

  • Certified GAL/CASA volunteer programs in 88 of our 92 counties
  • 4,020 active volunteers advocated for children involved in 23,290 CHINS cases
  • 600 new volunteers were trained in 2021, spending nearly 18,800 hours in initial training

About GAL/CASA Volunteers

CASA vs. GAL vs. DCS Case Managers

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer who advocates for abused and neglected children in the child welfare system. Guardians ad Litem (GALs), like CASAs, advocate for children in court proceedings, including child abuse and neglect, paternity and divorce/custody cases. Under Indiana law, a GAL may be an attorney, a volunteer or another paid professional. Within the child welfare system GAL and CASA are interchangeable.

A GAL/CASA does not work for Department of Child Services (DCS). They are independent, objective members of the community who are appointed by the court and whose role is to speak for the child. GAL/CASA advocates only for the child; they do not advocate for parents, foster parents or for DCS. Their role is to protect and promote the well-being, permanency and best interests of abused and neglected children in the child welfare system.

What GAL/CASA Volunteers Do

GAL/CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of children in court. They visit the child, get to know them, ascertain what kind of services they may need, and what they hope will happen in the case. They review documents, talk to other professionals involved in the case, meet with the parents, meet with the placement (relatives, a family friend, or foster parents). The volunteer then prepares a summary for the court and makes an independent and objective recommendation to the court about what should happen in the case to have the best outcome, which serves the best interests, of the child.

GAL/CASA is a legal party to a case. While an individual volunteer cannot give legal advice, as a legal party GAL/CASA often works with attorneys to represent the child’s best interests on an as needed basis. These attorneys do things for the child’s best interests like file motions, attend hearings, question witnesses, and present evidence on behalf of the children served by the GAL/CASA network.

GAL/CASA Screening and Training

Volunteers must pass screening and training requirements. They must

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Submit an application with references
  • Complete a personal interview
  • Pass criminal background and child abuse registry screenings
  • Complete training based on a nationally recognized curriculum
  • Comply with Code of Ethics requiring confidentiality and professionalism

Each CASA volunteer receives a minimum of 30 hours of initial training, which includes information about their role, the child welfare system, the court process, child development, the identification of child abuse and neglect, social issues affecting families, cultural diversity, and other topics related to their work. After the initial training, each CASA is required to complete 12 hours per year of continuous training. Training for CASA community volunteers is provided at the county program level. To inquire about training to become a volunteer in your county, please contact Teresa Lyles at 1-800-542-0813 or by email at teresa.lyles@courts.in.gov. If you are an attorney seeking the required GAL training for lawyers representing children in juvenile court, please contact our office for future training dates.

Volunteer Commitment

There is no contract for length of service. A volunteer is asked to commit to the child. Often the CASA may be the only consistent figure and voice in a child’s life while they are in the child welfare system. The CASA is asked to stay on the child’s case until it is resolved through reunification with the parent, adoption, or otherwise achieves permanency in another safe home.


History of Indiana GAL/CASA

Established in 1990, the State Office certifies and provides training and support to local GAL/CASA programs in 88 Indiana counties. The local GAL/CASA programs provide trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court, helping to ensure children’s needs are met while they are in foster care and that these children have a safe and permanent home as quickly as possible. Indiana has one of the largest networks of GAL/CASA programs in the nation. Indiana volunteers spoke for 23,290 abused and neglected children in cases in 2021.

In 2005, the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA became the first state in the nation to be awarded certification by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association. The Indiana State Office and Indiana Supreme Court continue to show their strong commitment to provide effective advocacy for abused and neglected children.

Indiana law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a trained court appointed special advocate in abuse and neglect cases. Moreover, if a child becomes the subject of a petition to terminate the parent/child relationship and the parent objects, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem or CASA for the child. In addition to the abuse and neglect cases, Indiana law allows for and Indiana courts are now frequently appointing CASA volunteers in custody and paternity cases. Although the number of volunteers who provide an invaluable service to Indiana trial courts is remarkable, there is still an ongoing need for more volunteers.

For more information about GAL/CASA programs or to volunteer, contact the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA at 1-800-542-0813.


History of National CASA

In1977, the concept of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program was introduced in Seattle, Washington. Seattle Juvenile Court Judge David W. Soukup realized that children who entered the legal system due to abuse or neglect in their own homes were often inadvertently re-victimized by courts and public social service agencies who were over-burdened, understaffed and woefully lacking in resources. Lawyers typically represented the interests of the parents and the state. Seldom did someone speak exclusively for the child, the party who arguably had the most at stake in the proceeding. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act enacted in 1974 prompted states to adopt legislation that provided representation for the child's best interests during judicial proceedings, and attorney guardians ad litem generally did not have the time, training nor resources to conduct the kind of in-depth fact-finding needed to represent the best long term interests of children.

Once Judge Soukup recognized the problem, he looked to community volunteers for a solution. He personally recruited and trained volunteers to serve as guardians ad litem for children who entered the child welfare system.

The idea caught the attention and approval of the Children in Placement Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and in 1978 the Committee adopted the model that came to be known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Contact the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA at 1-800-542-0813 and see the program directory for more information about GAL/CASA programs or to volunteer.

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