Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Laura Agnich

Committee Member 1

April Schueths

Committee Member 2

Christina Policastro

Committee Member 3

Chad Posick

Committee Member 4

Brenda Blackwell

Abstract

Children in the court system who are abused or neglected are mandated by the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to have special legal representation in the form of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). A GAL can be a staff attorney or he or she can be a volunteer layperson (known as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA) who has undergone the GAL training. In some states, the CASA volunteer can be a substitute for the GAL, while in other states (like Georgia) the CASA is appointed by the judge as a complement to the staff attorney. To date, there has been very little research evaluating the fidelity of CASA programs where they are implemented, nor has there been much research on the CASA program more generally. Therefore, this study evaluates the fidelity of a rural CASA branch using the Justice Program Fidelity Scale (JPFS; Miller & Miller, 2015) and interview data from 12 CASA volunteers, along with local CASA program statistics and training materials. The CASA program evaluated for the present study scored an 85.64% on the JPFS using combined scores from two researchers. Implications for rural areas, including implications specifically for a judicial circuit with no dedicated specialty judge for cases involving abused or neglected children, are discussed.

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