Legislation granting CASA legal status and authority was initially passed in 1999 as Wisconsin Act 149. This summary is provided as a reference to show the tie between significant CASA practice and Wisconsin law, though it is not necessarily comprehensive for all aspects of CASA practice.
I. Memorandum of Understanding under Wis. Stat. § 48.07(5)(a)
A. Formal recognition of a CASA Program will be accomplished by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding between the CASA Program and the Chief Judge of an Administrative District where the CASA Program is operating.
B. The Memorandum of Understanding shall specify that:
- The CASA Program is responsible for selecting, training, supervising and evaluating volunteers.
- A CASA volunteer may perform the activities specified in Wis. Stat. § 48.236(a) to (c), in addition to any other requirements listed in the Memorandum of Understanding.
- A CASA volunteer may exercise any authority specified in Wis. Stat. § 48.236(a) and (b), unless the Memorandum of Understanding states otherwise.
C. The Memorandum of Understanding can include any variances from Wis. Stat. § 48.07(5)(b) to (d), Wis. Stat. § 48.236(3)(a) to (c), or Wis. Stat. § 48.236(4)(a) and (b) if necessary to ensure more efficient administration of the program.
II. Requirements of a CASA Volunteer under Wis. Stat. § 48.07(5)(b)(1)
A. Twenty-one years or older
B. Demonstrates an interest in child welfare
C. Successfully completes background checks
D. Completes training
III. Background Checks under Wis. Stat. § 48.07(5)(b)(2)
At minimum, a criminal background check will be conducted with the assistance of the Department of Justice.
IV. Before a volunteer can undertake CASA duties, he/she must complete training instruction under Wis. Stat. § 48.07(5)(c) that will include:
A. Instructions on recognizing child abuse and neglect
B. Cultural competency as defined in Wis. Stat. § 48.982(1)(bm)
C. Child development, court procedures, permanency planning
D. Activities of CASA volunteer under Wis. Stat. § 48.236
E. Information gathering and documentation
F. Court observation of CHIPS proceeding
CASA volunteers will also undergo on-going training throughout the year.
V. Supervision and Evaluation under Wis. Stat. § 48.07(d)
A. CASA Program staff will be accessible to volunteers and will hold regular conferences with volunteers
B. Staff will conduct annual evaluation with volunteers
C. Staff will provide volunteers with written policies and procedures of the program, as well as volunteer responsibilities
VI. Activities of a CASA Volunteer under Wis. Stat. § 48.236
A. A CASA volunteer is not a party to a case
B. CASA volunteer service terminates if the court’s jurisdiction terminates or if the court discharges the CASA volunteer sooner
C. Generally, a CASA volunteer can do the following:
- Gather information and make observations about a child who is the subject of a CHIPS proceeding
- Gather information and make observations about the child's family and any other person residing in the same home as the child
- Maintain regular contact with the child
D. Specifically, a CASA volunteer can do the following:
- Monitor appropriateness and safety of the child’s environment
- Monitor compliance of the child and/or the child’s family with the consent decree/dispositional order or permanency plan under Wis. Stat. § 48.38
- Monitor the extent to which any agency that is required to provide services for the child and/or the child’s family under the court order/consent decree or permanency plan is doing so
- Based on regular contact and monitoring, a CASA volunteer can provide information to the court through:
a) Written reports
b) Oral testimony
- Undertake activities that are consistent with the signed Memorandum of Understanding
- Observe the child, child’s living environment and/or living environment of the parent, guardian, legal custodian, or caregiver
- A CASA volunteer can interview the child, the child’s parent, guardian, legal custodian and/or caregiver
- Interview any person who might have information about child or child's family that is relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
E. Where CASA volunteers can observe or interview a child:
- Any location without the permission of the child’s parent, guardian, legal custodian or caregiver if necessary to get information relevant to CHIPS proceeding
- A CASA volunteer cannot enter into a child’s home unless he/she has permission of the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian or other caregiver OR unless there is a specific court order allowing CASA volunteer to do so
F. Any information that a CASA volunteer receives about the child must be kept confidential
G. If a CASA volunteer violates the confidentiality requirement, he/she is liable to any individual who may have been damaged because of the disclosure of that information.
H. Any information distributed to the court must be sent to all parties.
I. A CASA volunteer is immune from civil liability for any act or omission occurring while the CASA volunteer is acting within the scope of his/her duties as a CASA volunteer.
VII. Access to Records under Wis. Stat. § 48.236(4)(a)
A. Generally, a CASA volunteer may:
- Inspect any records or reports relating to the child that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
- Inspect any records or reports relating to the child’s family that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
- Inspect any records or reports relating to any other person residing in the same home as child that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
B. Specific Records Available to CASA Volunteers:
- Records under Wis. Stat. § 48.293
a) Law enforcement officer reports
b) All records relating to the child that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
c) All records relating to an unborn child that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
d) All records relating to an unborn child’s expectant mother that are relevant to the CHIPS proceeding
e) Recorded oral statement of a child under Wis. Stat. § 908.08 that is in possession, custody or control of the state
- Examination Records under Wis. Stat. § 48.295(2)
b) This statute refers to physical, psychological, mental or developmental examination reports.
c) Child’s AODA assessment report, physician, psychiatric, or psychological exam report.
d) AODA assessment report for a parent whose ability to care for the child is in question
e) Law Enforcement reports and records under Wis. Stats. §§ 48.396(1) and 936.396(1)
f) Court records under Wis. Stats. §§ 48.396(1) and 938.396(2)(a)
g) Social welfare agency records under Wis. Stats. §§ 48.78(2)(a) and 938.78(2)(a)
h) Abuse and neglect reports and records under Wis. Stat. § 48.981(7)(a)11r
i) Pupil records under Wis. Stat. § 118.125(2)(L)
VIII. What information CASA volunteers should receive:
A. Copies of:
- Dispositional order
- Original and all revised permanency plan
B. Notice of:
- Change of Placement Request, and hearing date and time
- Notice of hearing about Revision and Extension of Dispositional order
- Notice about Permanency Plan Review hearing
IX. CASA volunteers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.