Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Louisiana

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Children's Code Art. 607; 424.1

The court shall appoint the program designated for the jurisdiction by the Louisiana Supreme Court to provide qualified, independent counsel for the child at the time the order setting the first court hearing is signed. Neither the child nor anyone purporting to act on his or her behalf may be permitted to waive this right.

The court is authorized in child-in-need-of-care proceedings to appoint a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) program to assist the court in fulfilling its duties and responsibilities to children brought into court.

Upon appointment, the CASA program shall designate the individual CASA volunteer for assignment to the child. The CASA volunteer shall have as his or her special duty and responsibility the advocacy of the best interests of the child involved in the juvenile proceeding to which he or she is assigned.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Children's Code Art. 424.2; 424.1

To accomplish the assignment of a CASA volunteer, the court shall issue an order of assignment that shall grant the CASA volunteer the authority to review all relevant documents pursuant to Article 424.6 and to interview all parties and witnesses involved in the proceeding in which he or she is appointed. The court also may grant the CASA volunteer access to the home in which the child is placed.

Except as otherwise ordered by the court, the appointment of a CASA program for a child shall include subsequent proceedings through permanent placement of the child, including families in need of services or delinquency proceedings.

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Children's Code Art. 116; 424.1; La. Sup. Ct. Rule 33, Part 3

A CASA program is established in compliance with National CASA Association standards. A CASA volunteer has been trained in accordance with National CASA Association standards and is under the supervision of a CASA program.

The judge of the court will first satisfy himself or herself of the volunteer's qualifications, training, and ability to serve as a CASA volunteer, including his or her ability to represent and advocate the best interests of children assigned to him or her. No volunteer shall be assigned until a comprehensive criminal background check has been conducted.

All CASA volunteers shall do the following:

  • Be sworn in by a judge of the court
  • Swear or affirm to abide by all laws, regulations, and orders of the court
  • Swear or affirm to advocate what he or she perceives to be in the best interests of the child for whom he or she is assigned in all matters pending before the court

In court rules: Prior to appointment as counsel for children in child abuse and neglect proceedings, an attorney shall have the following qualifications:

  • The attorney shall have completed within the past 2 years a minimum of 8 hours of training or education relevant to child abuse and neglect cases and/or shall have sufficient knowledge to satisfy the court of the attorney's qualifications.
  • The attorney shall complete a minimum of 6 hours of approved continuing legal education each calendar year and shall submit to the supreme court documentation of compliance no later than January 31 of the following calendar year.
  • The requisite education shall include relevant law and jurisprudence; child development; child abuse and neglect; and the roles, responsibilities, and duties of independent counsel for children, including the Standards for Representation of Children.

Specific Duties

Citation: Children's Code Art. 607; 424; 424.3; 424.4; 424.6; La. Sup. Ct. Rule 33, Part 3

The child shall be a party to the proceedings, and the attorney for the child shall have the authority to represent the child at all stages of the proceedings. The attorney for the child shall have the authority to take actions, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Accompany the child and be present for all court appearances, school hearings, and other meetings related to the child
  • View and copy the child's medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric, educational, or counseling records

The purpose of the CASA is to advocate for timely placement of children in permanent, safe, and stable homes.

Under the supervision of the CASA program, it shall be the duty of a CASA volunteer to do the following:

  • Provide independent, factual information to the court regarding the children and cases to which they are assigned
  • Advocate on behalf of the children involved in the cases to which they are assigned what they perceive to be in the best interests of the children
  • Monitor proceedings in cases to which they have been assigned and advise and assist the court in its determination of the best interests of the children involved

Regarding any case to which the CASA volunteer has been assigned, the following applies:

  • The CASA shall be notified by the court of all court proceedings and hearings of any kind pertaining to the child.
  • The CASA shall be notified by the department and shall be entitled to attend all administrative review hearings and family team meetings concerning the case to which he or she has been assigned, unless the parent objects.
  • The CASA shall be entitled to attend all court proceedings and hearings of any kind pertaining to the child.
  • The CASA may be called as a witness in the proceedings by any party or by the court and may request of the court the opportunity to appear as a witness.
  • The CASA shall be given access to all portions of the court record relating to proceedings pertaining to the child and the child's family.

In court rules: Counsel for a child should do the following:

  • Obtain copies of all pleadings and notices
  • Participate in discovery, negotiations, conferences, and hearings
  • Inform other parties and counsel of the attorney's representation and expectation of reasonable notice of any conferences and hearings and of any changes in circumstances affecting the child and the child's family
  • Avoid creating and attempt to reduce delays in the proceedings and advocate for timely permanence for the child
  • Advise the child about the case, the child's rights, the court system, the proceedings, counsel's role, expectations of the legal process, the risks and benefits of possible courses of action, and other relief
  • Determine the client's desires and preferences in a developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive manner
  • Advocate for the desires and expressed preferences of the child and follow the child's direction throughout the case in a developmentally appropriate manner
  • Develop a theory and strategy for hearings
  • Identify appropriate resources for the child

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Children's Code Art. 607; 424.1

If the court finds that the parents of the child are financially able, it may order the parents to pay some or all the costs of the child's representation by independent counsel.

CASA volunteers serve without compensation and at the pleasure of the court exercising juvenile jurisdiction.