Frequently Asked Questions About Our Program
“What should I know about the program?”
The 3rd District Guardian ad Litem program is part of Idaho’s network of seven CASA Programs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). We launched November, 2016 after being joined with 4th district (including Ada county) for nearly 20 years. We train and guide volunteer Guardians to represent, in Idaho’s Courts, children who have been removed from their family homes due to concerns about abuse or neglect.
“How many children does your organization represent?’
In 2018, we represented over 1,000 children, in nearly 500 cases, for Adams, Washington, Payette, Gem, Canyon, and Owyhee counties. In 2019, we are expecting the number we represent, and the number of children coming into care, to both increase.
“What counties make up the 3rd District?”
Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington.
“How was this program founded?”
During 1977, Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup was faced with making decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children with only the information provided by the state Child Protective Services. Soukup formulated the idea that volunteers could be dedicated to a case and speak for children’s best interests. Fifty volunteers immediately responded to his idea, which started a movement that provides better representation for abused and neglected children throughout the United States.
“How is this program funded?”
We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded primarily through private donations and grants. However, in the State of Idaho, there is a mandate for every child in Protective Custody to receive a Guardian ad Litem if under the age of 12. Therefore the 7 CASA/GAL programs in Idaho do receive a collective grant from the State yearly that is split between the 7 districts based on the number of volunteers each program has serving children 12 and under.
“How many staff does the program have?”
We currently employ 4 full-time staff personnel and 3 part-timers, and are hoping to add to our team shortly.
“What do your staff members do?”
Currently, we have 2 full-time Advocate Coordinators, and 2 part-time Advocate Coordinators who manage and coordinate between our cases and our volunteers. We also have a Volunteer Manager incharge of retaining our volunteers through support, and maintaining their paperwork and compliance. Our Community Outreach Manager is in charge of advertising, recruitment, marketing, and development, and we an Executive Director of the program.
“Is your program needing to grow?”
YES! With the number of children in care far outweighing our current Volunteer capacity, more Guardians are sorely needed. The six counties we represent currently house the largest number of children in protective custody in the state; and yet, the Third District Guardian ad Litem Program’s Volunteer capacity can only handle about 40% of all cases that come in.
Also, with our limited funding, we only have enough money for the staff we currently have. In order to accept more volunteers, we need more staff to offer them training, coordination, and help throughout their case. And so, we need to increase our funding in order to grow our program to the capacity our communities need.
Frequently Asked Questions about Volunteering
“What will be my role as a Guardian?”
A Guardian ad Litem, Guardian, or GAL, is a community volunteer who has completed training and engages in casework, representing children who have been removed from all or part of their family due to concerns of abuse and/or neglect. We get to know the child and their situation, and then compile a report to advise a Judge on what we think is in the child’s best interest for their current and future health and happiness. We are a positive adult role-model, a friend and mentor, and an advocate.
“What kinds of cases will I be dealing with?”
Our community sets standards of tolerance for how its citizens should live and interact with in our society. When those standards are compromised, and children are involved, it becomes necessary to place them in a protected environment. This is when a Guardian is appointed by the Court. We handle all cases involving child abuse and neglect, including – but not limited to – physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
“Will I have any training?”
Of course! The Third District Guardian presents a National CASA adapted curriculum. Training occurs once a week for four weeks. We also offer field training and shadowing with one of our Advocate Coordinators, and help through the first case with meetings on report writing, attending hearings, going on visitations, and doing investigative work. The volunteer has as much or as little help as they would like throughout the duration of their cases, and we require twelve hours of training per year through continuing education for all of our volunteers as well as our Staff.
“How long will I be with a typical case?”
Most cases last between twelve and sixteen months, depending on the circumstances. It is very important that volunteers remain with a case throughout its duration; often, the volunteer Guardian is the only constant in the child’s life during this trying time. And, of course, you are always welcome to take on another case after one is completed.
“What age will the child be that I’m serving?”
Currently, we have a need for Volunteers to advocate for children ages 0-12 and 13-18. However, Guardians are able to let their Advocate Coordinator know the age they are most comfortable working with and their preferences.
“How will I report to the Judge?”
Guardians report to the Judge in reports, then they appear in Court where they are represented by an Attorney associated with the Guardian ad Litem program.
“How often do I meet with the child I’m assigned to? Where will I meet them?”
A Guardian is required to visit the child they are assigned to a minimum of one time per month. The duration of the visit is left to the Guardian’s discretion. If you would like to visit the child more often, that is wholly encouraged.
Guardian’s are able to meet with the children they are assigned at schools, doctor’s offices, therapist offices, biological family’s homes, foster homes, parks, etc. Anywhere you are alone but not isolated with the child and have the opportunity to talk to them one-on-one.
“What if I cannot attend a Court hearing?”
What’s special about the Third District Guardian ad Litem program is that all Guardian’s support each other. When a Guardian is unable to attend a Court hearing, a knowledgeable fellow Guardian will step forward and attend in their place.
“What reports do I need to write?”
Although the report writing seems to be daunting, it’s really not. Basically, reports are a summary of all the visits, interviews, and research the Guardian completes through the life of a case, as well as any concerns and suggestions. Fellow Guardians are on hand to help create and edit finished reports which are submitted to the Court prior to a hearing.
“How many hours a month will I typically spend on a case?”
The time spent per case does depend on the type of case it is and what stage the case is at. The beginning of the case will be the most time consuming between hearings, visitations with all parties, and gathering information. You can expect to spend about 8-10 hours per month during the first three months of the case. After that, the time required is typically between 3-5 hours.
“How many cases will I have?”
After a volunteer is properly trained, you will be assigned one case, and shortly after that an additional case will be assigned whenever possible. A Volunteer will never have more than two cases at a time unless otherwise approved by a supervisor.
“What are the requirements in order to volunteer?”
It is the policy of the Third District Guardian ad Litem Program to reject any applicant that has been convicted of, or have charges pending for, a felony or misdemeanor involving a sex offense, child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or any act that may pose risk to children or the Third District Guardian ad Litem Program’s integrity or credibility.
With that being said, the only requirements we ask, is that our volunteers are over 21, be able to pass a thorough background check, have a High School diploma, and an eagerness to help children.
“How do I get started?”
Please call or email us and set-up an appointment to meet with a Staff member. We’ll take it from there and show you the way to becoming a Guardian.