By The Honorable John P. Zakowski, Brown County Circuit Court Judge
I was attending a recent juvenile law conference for judges and court commissioners from across the State. One of the speakers was a social worker from Ohio. During her session concerning children, a question was raised about CASA. She mentioned how much she “loved” CASA and how significant information provided by CASA advocates was to juvenile cases in Ohio. The discussion then turned to the use of CASA in Wisconsin. To my surprise, it appears that the number of counties in Wisconsin where CASA exists is the exception rather than the rule. The discussion re-enforced my commitment to the CASA program and my belief that we are very fortunate to have an active and involved CASA here in Brown County.
The CASA program continues to grow locally through the work of dedicated individuals. I have attended a session which is part of the 40-hour training required of all CASA Advocates. I have been very impressed by the quality of people who have come forward to volunteer their time and efforts on behalf of children who are in need of protection and services, the victims of abuse and neglect. They listen to these children, and their documented findings and written reports are thorough and provide the Court with significant updates as to the extent of progress the children make as their case continues in the legal system. Judges read these reports with interest—and they often include feedback from the children themselves. CASA Advocates also act as a check that permanency plans and other court orders are being followed by participants in the legal system. It helps assist the Court in making significant decisions.
We have seen increased cooperation and exchange of information between CASA Advocates, the social workers at Brown County Dept. of Human Services, and the court-appointed guardian ad litems.
The CASA commitment is seen on a daily basis. I observe the CASA Advocates appearing in court for hearings involving the client over and over again.
This CASA commitment is so important because national studies show children with CASA Advocates spend less time in foster care and do better in school. This is in large part due to the fact that stability in a child’s life, via a responsible adult whom the child can relate to and confide in, is always in the child’s best interests.
The CASA program is to be commended for its continued growth and commitment to children, and the judiciary looks forward to continuing to utilize CASA Advocates whenever appropriate.