An Evaluation of a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program in the Rural South

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Children and Youth Services Review






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 a volunteer layperson (known as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA) who has undergone GAL training. In some states, the CASA volunteer can be a substitute for the GAL, while in other states, including 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 program 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 practitioners working in the field of child abuse and prevention in 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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