Congratulations to our New Advocates!! We are excited to have these ladies join our organization to serve Jefferson Parish children in foster care. They were sworn-in on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.
From left to right: Chief Judge Barron Burmaster, Michelle Reinhardt, Miriam Breaux-Baham, Annette Shaw.
National Reunification Month is celebrated every year in June. We recognize the people and efforts around the country that help families to stay together. CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for children to be reunified with their families whenever possible. Our goal is to reunite families safely and permanently when it is in the best interest of children. Today, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the many parents who step up and do what is best for their children and families. It is not easy to follow a case plan provided by DCFS. It is not easy to break a cycle of abuse (sometimes generational), to get treatment for mental health, to get treatment for an addiction, obtain the help you need to be a better parent, it is not easy to adhere to all the requirements from the courts and DCFS, yet some parents do it!
Some parents step up, acknowledge the harm they have caused and want to get help. As the first permanent plan approved by the Adoption of Safe Families Act (ASFA) outlines, we want to see our CASA Jefferson children in safe and permanent homes – with their parents when safe and if possible.
What Is Reunification? Reunification: (noun) When a child returns to live with the family they were removed from, full time.
Positive Impact On Parents - Reunification means parents have had the opportunity to get the help they need in order to care for their child and lead productive lives.
Better Development - Children who can return to permanent, stable routines in loving homes are more likely to succeed in school and social settings because they aren’t occupied with thoughts of when they’ll move or switch homes again.
Less Stress For Children - Moving is stressful on anyone, but especially for children. Reunification promotes better mental health and happier lives for kids.
Ties To Extended Family - Children in foster care don’t just lose touch with parents, but with extended family members too. Through reunification, they maintain those connections, traditions, and cultural identities.
CHILD IN NEED OF CARE, or CINC cases often begin when a child has been removed from their home by the police or a social worker. The police or social worker may remove a child from their home when they believe there is a threat of danger that they cannot protect the child from if they leave the child there. Sometimes, these cases come to court after a family has been working with a social worker, if the worker believes the family needs the supervision of the court. If parents cannot afford an attorney, both they and their children
Child in Need of Care Glossary Adjudication - this is what they call a trial in juvenile court. It is the court hearing where the district attorney’s office must try to prove the child is in need of care, based on the claims made in their petition.
Answer - a court hearing after the petition has been filed, where the parents may admit to all the claims the district attorneys has made, or deny them. If the parent denies, or says the claims against them are not true, the case will be set for an adjudication hearing.
CASA - a specially trained volunteer who works with children in a child in need of care case. They report to the Judge about how the children are doing, what their needs are, and what the CASA believes is best for the child.
Case Plan - if the court finds that a child is in need of care, it will order DCFS to create a case plan. This case plan has tasks and goals to be done in order to fix the issues that brought the family to court. It may include, but isn’t limited to, the type of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation the family needs.
Case Review - after a case plan is ordered, the court will have court hearings to review the case plan in order to see check the progress of the parents, and decide if the child’s placement is still the best option at that time. Child’s Attorney - this is an attorney that represents the child during a child in need of care case. They do not work for the state, the court, or the parents. It is their job to work for what the child wants during the period of a case.
Continued Custody Hearing - if a social worker or police offer believes that a child is in danger and that that the only way they can protect the child is to remove the child from their home, a court hearing must be held within 3 days. At this court hearing, the Judge will decide whether they believe it is safe for the child to go back home or whether the child must continue to stay with a relative or foster family. (CASA is usually appointed.)
DCFS - this is short for the Department of Children and Family Services, or child protective services. Sometimes also called the agency or simply "the state", DCFS investigates reports that a child may be in danger, abused, or neglected. DCFS also provides many services to families who need help.
District Attorney - the attorney who works on behalf of the state, or DCFS, for a child in need of care case. This attorney files the petition, making claims that a child is in need of care. They try to prove to the Judge that the claims are true, and why DCFS needs to be involved with the family.
Disposition - if the Judge finds a child is in need of care at the adjudication hearing, the next hearing is the disposition. At this hearing, the Judge will order a case plan for the family.
IDB - short for indigent defender board. This term is commonly used to refer to the attorney the Court appoints to represent the juvenile. Also called the public defender’s office.
Instanter - when a social worker believes a child is at risk and that the only way they may protect the child is by removing the child from their home, they may get permission to do this from a Judge. This is called an instanter order. A Court hearing will then be held within 3 days for a Judge to decide if the child may now return home or must remain in custody.
Petition - a written request filed in Court by the district attorney's office that claims a child is in need of care and asks the Court to hear the case and make a decision.
Public Defender - A defense attorney who works for parents who can't afford to pay for a lawyer. Public defenders work for their clients, not for the court or the state.
Safety Plan - an agreement made with DCFS by the parents to follow certain conditions or rules to protect the health and safety of a child. This plan is done so that a child may remain in a home instead of being removed. If the child has already been removed, a safety plan may be made so that a child can return to the home.
Visitation - the court may order that a parent can visit with their child that is not living with them at that time. The Court may order that DCFS or another person must be with the child and parent(s) during the visit, which is known as supervised visitation.
Termination of parental rights - a legal action where a person’s parental rights are ended. That person will no longer be a child’s legal parent, and the child will be free to be adopted by another person.
TO ATTEND OUR JUNE CASA JEFFERSON VOLUNTEER ADVOCATE IN-SERVICE
Where: CASA Jefferson Office When: Wednesday, June 21, 2023 Time: 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Topic: Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Supervisors and Caseworkers will discuss DCFS Policies and Procedures
*Rsvp by 6/19/2023 to firstname.lastname@example.org*
Confidentiality Policies and Procedures (Information taken from CASA Jefferson Advocate Manual)
Everything an Advocate learns about a child and the child’s family in the course of their advocacy is confidential. You will sign a Statement of Confidentiality at pre-service training and every time you are assigned a new case. As an Advocate, start with the assumption that information cannot be disclosed to anyone. This includes information an Advocate may learn during the course of his/her advocacy about children assigned to another Advocate. The advocate shall adhere to the following guidelines with respect to maintain confidentiality and respecting the privacy of others in all matters relating to an assigned case. The guidelines are set out below, they govern circumstances in which the CASA Advocate requests or receives information. These guidelines cannot cover every possible situation which may arise. If in doubt as to whether certain information can be shared, always check with the Advocate Coordinator.
An Advocate may share information with the CASA Jefferson staff, other sworn Advocates, the Court and DCFS. In some instances, an Advocate may share information with the child’s therapist or treating physician but check with the Advocate Supervisor first.
An Advocate may never share information with a foster parent or the biological parents, or other relatives, teachers or tutors.
An advocate is not allowed to disseminate documents to any of the parties, their attorneys, and or collateral sources which are covered by state and/or federal confidentiality laws. These documents may include drug and alcohol evaluation/records; involuntary mental health treatment and rape crisis center information; and some criminal histories.
An advocate should not promise a child or any party to the case that his/her statements will be kept secret or confidential.
Cases involving parties who are known to the CASA program as being HIV positive, having AIDS and/or having other sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are governed by an additional confidentiality protocol to which the Advocate must adhere. If, after accepting a case, the CASA advocates learn it involves a STD, the CASA advocate should immediately contact their Advocate Coordinator to obtain the protocol.
An advocate must disclose confidential information learned during an investigation in three circumstances: 1. When consulting with CASA staff who must be provided all significant case specifics known to the CASA Advocate 2. When ordered by the court in a hearing or trial 3. When the CASA Advocate thinks that there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered physical and/or sexual abuse.
Confidentiality is not an easy task, but it is vital. Remember that an Advocate is to gather information and not dispense it. When asked questions by others seeking information, politely explain that CASA's are bound by confidentiality laws.
Court Attendance and Court Reports In order to properly apprise the Court of a child’s situation and thereby advocate for that child’s best interest, an Advocate is required to provide the Court with a written report and attend hearings so that the Advocate may testify as to his/her findings. Court reports are due to the Court for all Disposition hearings, ASFA hearings, Permanency hearings, and most Status Reviews. Reports are due to the Advocate Supervisor three weeks prior to the court date. The Advocate Supervisor will meet with the Advocate and discuss the reports. These reports are confidential and may be presented only to the Court and the attorneys for the parties involved. This includes the attorney f or DCFS, the child’s attorney, and the attorney for the parents. If there is any information included in a report that the Advocate and Advocate Supervisor believe should not be shared with all parties, then a CASA can request a protective order, which, if granted by the Court, would limit information provided. An Advocate should always testify at a Court hearing, even if others have addressed all issues for the Court’s attention. An Advocate should read all of his/her recommendations into the record, so the Court will k now that CASA has a position regarding the child and the child’s circumstances.
Case Assignment Exception A volunteer will not be assigned more than two sibling/family groups at a time. An exception may be granted at the discretion of the CASA staff; however, the decision to permit a high caseload shall be documented as to the justification for and reasonableness of the exception. Under the exception, a volunteer will not be assigned to more than f five family/sibling groups.
Transportation of Children and Families While an Advocate is permitted and encouraged to visit their child in a variety of scenarios, Advocates are prohibited f from transporting the child in their vehicle. Additionally, Advocates may not transport family members. This falls outside the role of Advocate.
CASA Children Visiting Advocate’s Home Advocates are strictly prohibited from allowing any child appointed to the CASA Jefferson program access to their home, regardless of whether they are the Advocate appointed to the child. Advocates should not disclose their home or employment addresses to any child, biological parent or foster parent. Doing so exceeds the scope of advocacy and is potential grounds for dismissal from the CASA Jefferson program.
Contact with the Child and Other Participants Each advocate is required to see, face-to-face and outside the Court, each month, the children for whom they advocate, regardless of the child’s age. Additionally, phone contact on a weekly basis is required. An exception may be granted at the discretion of the CASA program; however, the decision to permit less frequent in person contact shall be documented as to the justification for the less frequent contact. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, an Advocate must ascertain whether a child is safe in his/her environment. This can only be achieved by seeing the child and the home in which he/she resides. This is true regardless of whether the child resides in a foster home, a treatment facility, a relative placement, or their parents’ home. Safety is a paramount concern, and every effort should be made to insure the child is safe and free from harm. Secondly, a child needs to know that his/her advocate is truly there for them. Children who have been abused and/or neglected are often slow to trust anyone is really there for them, wanting what is best for them. Seeing their Advocate consistently helps build trust and confidence. One thing an Advocate must always remember: An Advocate NEVER takes the child to the Advocate’s home, even in an emergency. This is strictly prohibited. Advocates are required to maintain adequate contact with all other parties and participants, also known as collaterals. This includes, but is not limited to, parents, relatives, foster parents or other caregivers, the DCFS case manager, teachers, therapists, tutors, or anyone else with pertinent information regarding the child. DCFS case managers, parents and caregivers should be contacted at least monthly, more often if the situation requires it. Teachers, therapists, tutors and others should be contacted at least quarterly and always before a court report is written. Contact should be more often if the situation requires it.
Dual Role Policy CASA Advocates cannot perform multiple roles in the lives of children who are under the jurisdiction of the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court. If you are a CASA Advocate; you cannot be a foster or adoptive parent, mentor, visor perform in another capacity that may create role confusion or a conflict of interest. Should you have an interest in serving children in addition to being an Advocate, you will be referred to another court’s jurisdiction and it will be up to that agency or court to determine your suitability for service.
CASA Jefferson Identification At no time is the CASA Jefferson identification badge to be used for any purpose other than to gather information regarding a child to whom the Advocate is currently assigned. Advocates are prohibited from representing themselves as an Advocate for anyone for whom they are not assigned, either by the CASA Jefferson program or the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court, or from using their CASA identification in any way or in any matter to which they are not appointed. The only exception to this policy is where an Advocate is a certified foster parent or visiting resource for a child that has been appointed to the CASA Jefferson program and to whom the Advocate is not assigned as a volunteer.
Suspected Abuse and/or Neglect CASA Jefferson Advocates are required to report any suspected abuse and/or neglect of any child to the appropriate authorities and to their Advocate Supervisors. In Louisiana, the appropriate authority would be the Department of Children and Family Services for the parish in which the abuse or neglect occurred or any law enforcement agency of the city or parish in which the incident occurred. Failure to report child abuse or neglect is possible grounds for dismissal from the CASA Jefferson program.
JUNE BIRTHDAY CASA VOLUNTEERS
Anneesah King Andy Hammer Julie Roccaforte Kathy Horridge Richard Saxer Richelle Woodfork Vincent Ferrand
JUNE ANNIVERSARY CASA VOLUNTEERS Adrienne Ali – 1yr Anne Caperino – 5yrs Clarissa Preston – 1yr Janel Edwards - 4yrs Lisa Stigler – 4yrs Rosilia Paz - 4yrs Sarah Letourneau – 1yr Stacey Williams – 2yrs Stephen Roques – 5yrs
Our Mission is to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect through volunteers advocating for safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for foster children in our community.
Our Vision is to have volunteers recruited, trained, and assigned to every child in the foster care system in Jefferson Parish.