In my opinion, when the Independent published an article regarding guardians ad litem (GAL), it potentially left an impression that the work of these guardians and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are the same (see "Guiding the guardians," Oct. 1, 2009). In fact, they are different with the work they take on and in their form of operation. Specifically, a CASA volunteer serves children who are abused or neglected. The GAL serves mostly in custody and divorce cases. The CASA volunteer provides a free service willing to work with all socio-economic groups. The GAL service is not necessarily free.
GAL representatives are independent and not necessarily required to have specific training. Our CASA of Missoula is part of a national program. The CASA volunteer receives detailed training that includes ongoing mentoring and oversight. CASA volunteers operate under standards with supervision.
The reporter's limited information regarding CASA was a disservice as the article references questionable practices by GALs without enough differentiation between the two groups. I encourage your readers to visit our website at casamissoula.org to learn more.
John R. Corwin
CASA of Missoula