Getting started

Welcome to CASA Kane County University! We hope the information below provides a great introduction to CASA Kane County’s mission, what our wonderful volunteer CASA/GALs do and how you can change a child’s life by become a CASA/GAL!

1. Short History of CASA Kane County

CASA Kane County is a non-profit, volunteer organization that has been advocating for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the Juvenile Court system since 1988. It follows the model that was started in 1977 by Judge David Soukup in Seattle, WA. CASA Kane County recruits, trains, and supervises community volunteers who serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates and Guardian ad Litems (CASA/GAL) for children who are court-involved due to abuse, neglect or dependency. The role and responsibility of a CASA/GAL is to advocate for the best interest of children and in doing so ensure that children have safe and permanent homes, providing them the chance to reach their full potential.

CASA Kane County is governed by a Board of 20 professional men and women who generously support and guide the organization through their time, talents and treasures. CASA Kane County’s daily operations are managed by a dedicated staff of 19. Each CASA/GAL is supported by an advocate supervisor and spends an average of 10 hours per month on case work, contributing to a total of over 20,000 volunteer hours every year.

CASA Kane County has approximately 213 CASA/GALs serving over 600 children throughout Kane County annually. CASA Kane County is one of over 1,000 CASA organizations across the country, and one of 35 within the State of Illinois. It is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization, which relies solely on philanthropic support from individuals, grants and special event fundraising to support its operations. CASA Kane County’s office is located in the Kane County Courthouse in downtown Geneva, IL. Kane County consists of over 500,000 people and serves 28 cities.

For more information about CASA Kane County, please call (630) 232-4484, or visit our website at www.casakanecounty.org.

2. What is a CASA/GAL?

In Kane County, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained volunteer appointed as a child’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in the Juvenile Court system. A GAL is responsible for advocating for the best interest of a child and acts as the “eyes and ears” of the judge by gathering information about a child’s circumstances and making recommendations for services and permanency. The ultimate goal of a CASA/GAL is to ensure that every child has a safe and permanent home through reunification with parents or family, adoption, guardianship or independence. Kane County CASA/GALs are appointed in abuse and neglect cases, as well as probate cases.

3. Qualifications for becoming a CASA/GAL

  • At least 21 years of age
  • Attendance at a CASA Kane County General Information Meeting (GIM)
  • Completion of a CASA Kane County application, including references
  • Ability to pass a background check, including fingerprinting and the Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) database
  • Participation in an interview with CASA Kane County staff
  • Successful completion of CASA Kane County’s CASA/GAL training program
  • Demonstration of emotional maturity
  • Ability to be objective and un-biased
  • Ability to exhibit self-assurance and appropriate assertiveness
  • Ability to make decisions and set goals
  • Willingness to commit to be a CASA/GAL for a minimum of three years
  • Possession of excellent verbal and written communication skills

4. Responsibilities of a CASA/GAL

  • Advocate for the best interest of a child or children to whom you are appointed
  • Complete a child visit at least once a month
  • Gather information about a child’s needs and circumstances
  • Observe parent and child visitation
  • Interview relevant people involved in a court case, such as parents, relatives, foster parents, social workers and school and medical personnel
  • Review records, including medical records and school records, as well as various DCFS documents, such as social history assessments, investigative reports, client service plans and reports submitted to the court
  • Prepare and submit written reports and recommendations to the court
  • Attend and participate in all court hearings and scheduled meetings regarding a child
  • Maintain strict confidentiality of all records and information pertaining to a court case
  • Complete a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education each year

5. Training

Before becoming a CASA/GAL, a volunteer must complete CASA Kane County’s training program, which includes in-person lectures and activities, report writing, case management lessons and courtroom observation.

The CASA Kane County training curriculum includes some of the following topics:

  • Role and Responsibility of a CASA/GAL
  • Child Abuse and Neglect
  • Juvenile Court Process
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Child Development
  • Substance Use
  • Mental Illness
  • Domestic Violence
  • Poverty
  • Interview Skills

6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What makes the CASA Kane County Organization unique?

CASA programs are the only volunteer organizations directly connected to the court. Our CASA/GALs are sworn-in and appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interests of a child who otherwise may not be heard. As adults come and go in the life of an abused and neglected child, our CASA/GAL strives to be the one consistent adult to stay with a child for the length of the court case. A CASA/GAL learns what a child’s needs are, makes recommendations and helps prevent a child from falling through the cracks of the child welfare system.


GAL vs. Friend of the Court

Guardian ad Litem (GAL):  Guardians are adults who are legally responsible for protecting the well-being and interests of their ward, who is usually a minor. A Guardian ad Litem is a unique type of guardian in a relationship that has been created by a court order only for the duration of a legal action. Courts appoint these special representatives for infants, minors, and mentally incompetent persons, all of whom generally need help protecting their rights in court.

CASA Kane County is appointed as the Guardian ad Litem for children ages 0-21 in court due to abuse, neglect or private guardianship. CASA Kane County is one of 13 Guardian ad Litem programs in the State of Illinois. Volunteers from other CASA programs without GAL status are considered to be a Friend of the Court. This table distinguishes the differences between these two program models.

CASA/GAL Team Model

  1. Appointed by the Court
  2. Given access to all pertinent court files, reports and other information pertaining to the child
  3. Must maintain regular contact with the child
  4. May establish contact with all persons having contact with and impact upon the child (teachers, counselors, etc)
  5. Must be assigned at the beginning of the case
  6. Must be present at all court hearings
  7. May submit reports. May be called as a witness
  8. Is a party to the case
  9. Must be represented by an attorney
  10. May file motions
  11. May cross examine witnesses
  12. May call witnesses of his/her own
  13. May present other evidence
  14. May present oral argument to the court directly addressing the positions and recommendations of other parties


CASA as Friend of the Court Model

  1. Appointed by the Court
  2. Given access to all pertinent court files, reports and other information pertaining to the child
  3. Must maintain regular contact with the child
  4. Establishes contact with all persons having contact with and impact upon the child (teachers, counselors, etc) and gathers information from them
  5. May be assigned at the beginning of a case (usually is)
  6. May be present at all court hearings (usually is and  often gives verbal report)
  7. Submits reports to the court providing information and tendering recommendations as to the best interests of the child
  8. Is not a party to the case
  9. Is not represented by an attorney

CASA Kane County vs. Other Community Organizations

Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS): The agency in Illinois government charged with protecting children, investigates reports of abuse and neglect of children, places children in foster care if necessary and refers families for needed services. State budget cuts mean DCFS workers have heavy case loads and staff turnover is high. CASA volunteers serve in the role of an advocate for a child to ensure that the state is being responsive to the child’s individual needs. CASA provides helpful information and insight, and makes recommendations to the court through their reports. CASA also has the freedom to advocate in the court for what is best for a child within reasonable means without the constraints of policies and procedures of a state agency. CASA volunteers are often the only adult who remains constant in a child’s life for the duration of their case, which stays open an average of 2-3 years. Although DCFS is a separate entity from CASA Kane County, the two organizations work collaboratively to ensure the best interests of children.

Big Brothers Big Sisters: They match adult volunteer mentors with children, ages 6-16, who have been voluntarily enrolled in the program by their parents or other adults in their lives. CASA volunteers are court-appointed to children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, and because of their legal role they have access to the child’s otherwise confidential information, including that from teachers, therapists and doctors. The CASA volunteer will serve as a consistent and trustworthy adult in the child’s life, but will go beyond mentoring by making official recommendations to the court in the child’s best interest. An additional difference is that CASA Kane County advocates cannot drive the youth they represent.

The Child Advocacy Center (CAC): They investigate cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse. They utilize a multi-disciplinary approach and provide child-friendly forensic interviews, treatment and counseling for children who’ve experienced abuse or witnessed violence. The CAC focuses on the criminal aspects of child abuse cases while CASA advocates for children in the civil cases brought by DCFS to protect the children.

Who are CASA/GALs?

CASA/GALs are compassionate, objective, self-motivated volunteers from the community who are trained to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and dependent children. CASA/GALs come from all walks of life and many work full-time. In Kane County, we are appointed as the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and have a responsibility to provide the judge with an unbiased view as an appointed officer of the court.

What is the role of a CASA/GAL?

CASA/GALs provide the judge with objective information about a child to help the judge make life-changing decisions about a child’s future. Each case is as unique as the child involved. CASA/GALs are fact-finders who interview and listen to children in order to determine what is in their best interest, whether it be reunification with parents, guardianship with a relative or adoption by a foster family. CASA/GALs write reports to the judge, providing information and making recommendations about placement and services for children. CASA/GALs remain on cases from the moment they are opened until they are closed.

How do CASA/GALs gather information about cases?

To prepare court reports and make recommendation, CASA/GALs interview the child, the child’s parents, family members, social workers, school personnel, health care providers and anyone else who has a significant role in a child’s life. CASA/GALs also review relevant records pertaining to a child – including school records, medical records, and DCFS records and reports.

What kind of time commitment is required to be a CASA/GAL?

CASA Kane County asks that our CASA/GALs make a minimum three year commitment. This is largely due to the fact that abuse and neglect cases often take several years to resolve from case opening to case closure. Children are moved from placement to placement and experience frequent changes in assigned case managers, as well as attorneys and judges in the courtroom. Our CASA/GALs are often the one consistent adult in a child’s life and we want to maintain that level of consistency in our cases. Once assigned to a case, a CASA/GAL typically spends about ten hours each month working on the case.

How do I become a CASA/GAL?

Prospective CASA/GALs should attend a CASA Kane County General Information Meeting, often referred to as a GIM and submit an application, including references. Once an application is received, CASA Kane County will contact applicants to come into the office for an interview with select staff members, typically the VP of Operations and Advocacy, the Director of Education and one of our advocate supervisors. Interviewees will be contacted and informed if they are accepted into a training class. After acceptance into a training class, a complete criminal background check, including fingerprinting and the Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) database will be conducted. Upon passing the background check and successful completion of the CASA Kane County training program, new advocates will be sworn in as CASA/GALs by the Juvenile Court judge. The oath includes a promise to maintain strict confidentiality, objectivity, and professionalism throughout appointment as a CASA/GAL.

7. Glossary

The following glossary provides commonly used terms and acronyms used in Juvenile Court.

Advocate Supervisor: A CASA Kane County staff member who provides case management support to CASA/GALs on their cases.

General Information Meeting (GIM): CASA Kane County holds informational meetings in various locations throughout Kane County for individuals to learn more about becoming a CASA/GAL. To find out the current schedule for upcoming CASA Kane County GIMs, please contact Gail Garcia, Program Coordinator at gailg@casakanecounty.org.

Optima: The case management system used by CASA Kane County

CASA/GAL Acronyms and Abbreviations: Click to download PDF