Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Colorado

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 19-1-111; 19-1-111.5; 19-3-203

The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child in all dependency or neglect cases under this title.

The court may appoint a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer if the court finds that the appointment would be in the best interests of the child. The court may direct the manner in which a CASA volunteer and any GAL appointed in a case shall collaborate.

Upon the filing of a petition under § 19-3-502 that alleges abuse or neglect of a minor child, the court shall appoint a GAL, who shall be an attorney-at-law licensed to practice in Colorado. Nothing in this section shall limit the power of the court to appoint a GAL prior to the filing of a petition for good cause.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 19-1-206; 19-1-207

A judge or magistrate may appoint a CASA volunteer in any action brought pursuant to titles 14, 15, and 19, when, in the opinion of the judge or magistrate, a child who may be affected by such action requires services that a CASA volunteer can provide. At the discretion of the judge or magistrate, a CASA volunteer may be a party to the action if so provided for in the memorandum of understanding.

A CASA volunteer shall be appointed at the earliest stages of an action pursuant to a court order that gives him or her the authority to review all relevant documents and interview all parties involved in the case, including parents, other parties in interest, and any other persons having significant information relating to the child.

The CASA volunteer's appointment concludes as follows:

  • When the court's jurisdiction over the child terminates
  • Upon discharge by the court on its own motion or at the request of the program director of the CASA program to which the CASA volunteer is assigned

A CASA volunteer shall not do any of the following:

  • Accept any compensation for the duties and responsibilities of his or her appointment
  • Have any association that creates a conflict of interest with his or her duties
  • Be related to any party or attorney involved in a case
  • Be employed in a position that could result in a conflict of interest or give rise to the appearance of a conflict
  • Use the CASA volunteer position to seek or accept gifts or special privileges

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 13-91-103; 19-1-204; 19-1-205; Colo. Chief Justice Directive 04-06(V)(A)

A GAL who is appointed to represent a child in a dependency or neglect proceeding shall be an attorney-at-law licensed to practice in Colorado.

All CASA volunteers shall participate fully in preservice training, including instruction on recognizing child abuse and neglect, cultural awareness, child development, education standards, the juvenile court process, permanency planning, volunteer roles and responsibilities, advocacy, information gathering, and documentation. Volunteers shall be required to participate in observation of court proceedings prior to appointment.

All volunteers shall receive training manuals that shall include guidelines for their service and duties.

Each CASA program shall provide a minimum of 10 hours of inservice training per year to CASA volunteers.

Any prospective volunteer must meet the following minimum qualifications:

  • Be at least age 21 and have demonstrated an interest in children and their welfare
  • Be willing to commit to the court for a minimum of 1 year of service to a child
  • Complete an application, including providing background information required below
  • Participate in a screening interview
  • Participate in the required training
  • Meet other qualifications as determined by the CASA program director and the chief judge of the judicial district

A prospective volunteer's application shall include the following:

  • A copy of any criminal history record and motor vehicle record
  • Written authorization for the CASA program to obtain information contained in any records or reports of child abuse or neglect concerning the prospective volunteer
  • At least three references of people who can address his or her character, judgment, and suitability for the position
  • Records from any other jurisdictions in which he or she resided during the 1-year time period prior to the date of the application, if the prospective volunteer has resided in Colorado for less than 12 months

In court rules: Attorneys appointed as GALs, child's legal representatives, or counsel for children subject to dependency and neglect proceedings shall possess the knowledge, expertise, and training necessary to perform the court appointment. In addition, GALs, child's legal representatives, and counsel for children subject to dependency and neglect proceedings shall obtain 10 hours of Office of the Child's Representative (OCR)-sponsored or approved continuing legal education courses. This requirement shall be met prior to the attorney's first appointment and on an annual basis while under contract with the OCR. The attorney shall provide proof of compliance with his or her application to provide attorney services or contract renewal for the OCR.

Specific Duties

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§19-3-203; 19-1-208

The GAL shall be provided with all reports relevant to a case submitted to or made by any agency or person, including reports of examination of the child or persons responsible for the neglect or dependency of the child. The county department shall share with the GAL the reports of fingerprint-based criminal history record checks from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if the court orders the county department to share that information with the GAL. The court and social workers assigned to the case shall keep the GAL apprised of significant developments in the case, particularly prior to further neglect or dependency court appearances.

The GAL shall represent the child's interests. To that end, he or she shall do the following:

  • Investigate, as necessary, to ascertain the facts
  • Talk with or observe the child involved
  • Examine and cross-examine witnesses in both the adjudicatory and dispositional hearings
  • Introduce and examine his or her own witnesses
  • Make recommendations to the court concerning the child's welfare
  • Appeal matters to the court of appeals or the supreme court
  • Participate in further proceedings, as needed

In addition, the GAL, if in the best interests of the child, shall seek to ensure that reasonable efforts are made to prevent unnecessary placement of the child out of the home and to facilitate reunification of the child with the child's family or, if reunification is not possible, to find another safe and permanent living arrangement for the child. In determining whether reasonable efforts are made with respect to a child, the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern.

Upon appointment, a CASA volunteer may do the following:

  • Conduct an independent investigation regarding the best interests of the child to provide factual information to the court regarding the child and the child's family, including the following:
    • Interview and observe the child
    • Interview other appropriate individuals
    • Review relevant records and reports
  • Determine whether an appropriate treatment plan has been created for the child and family, appropriate services are being provided, and treatment is progressing in a timely manner
  • Determine if additional services are necessary to ensure educational success for a child in a proceeding pursuant to the School Attendance Law of 1963 (title 22, article 33, part 1)
  • Make recommendations consistent with the best interests of the child regarding placement, visitation, and appropriate services
  • Prepare written reports to be distributed to the parties of the action
  • Monitor the case to ensure that the child's essential needs are met and that the terms of the court's orders are fulfilled

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 13-91-105; 13-91-106; 19-1-213

The OCR shall enhance the provision of GAL services in Colorado by establishing fair and realistic State rates by which to compensate State-appointed GALs that will take into consideration the caseload limitations placed on GALs and that will be sufficient to attract and retain high-quality, experienced attorneys to serve as GALs.

There is hereby created in the State treasury the guardian ad litem fund. The fund shall consist of such general fund moneys as may be appropriated thereto by the general assembly and any moneys received pursuant to § 13-91-105(1)(a)(IX). The moneys in the fund shall be subject to annual appropriation by the general assembly to the State Judicial Department for allocation to OCR for the purposes of funding the work of OCR'S relating to the provision of GAL services and for the provision of GAL services in Colorado.

Beginning July 1, 2019, and at least annually thereafter, OCR shall allocate money appropriated to the State Judicial Department for CASA programs to the State CASA entity for allocation to local CASA programs. The State CASA entity shall report to OCR regarding its duties within 1 month before receiving an allocation.

The State CASA entity, in consultation with local CASA programs, shall annually establish a formula for the allocation of money appropriated and shall allocate money to the local CASA programs in accordance with the established allocation formula. The allocation formula must be provided to OCR no later than June 15, 2019, and each June 15 thereafter, prior to the State CASA entity receiving its annual allocation.