Behind the Courtroom Door with Family Law CASA Program Attorney
CONTENT WARNING: Mention of domestic violence, violence towards children, substance abuse, sexual abuse and child neglect.
How do you determine which parent is the safe parent? It will require a full investigation and lots of hard work by the volunteer and staff on average 70 to 100 volunteer hours alone for each case.
My name is Ann-Marie Croy, and I am the Program Attorney for Family Law CASA.
The ideal outcome is for the parents to take Family Law CASA recommendations to heart, participate in substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling and/or domestic violence treatment and become nurturing, loving, and safe parents.
As the program attorney, I go to court and advocate for each child. The volunteers do the critical work of gathering information and I package and present that information and provide it to the court, in the form of a legal argument; a legal argument based on statutes and family law. This process ensures that CASA kids have a court order in place that protects them.
The reason CASA’s role is crucial in high-conflict custody cases is the parents are each advocating for their own personal self-interest and lose sight of the child’s needs. There is intense animosity between the parents. Typically, both parents are alleging that the other parent is violent, abusing drugs or alcohol and hurting or neglecting the children. Add to that the barriers facing low-income and marginalized families such as lack of resources, housing or food insecurity, systemic racism and lack of family support. These children are at risk of suffering trauma that inhibits their ability to grow up to be happy and successful adults. Family Law CASA can help these children by providing information to the court which the court would not otherwise have access to. Critical information that can ensure the child’s safety.
For example, in one case, the child was living with his mother in another state across the county. The father, who lived in King county, was worried that the child was being physically abused by the mother’s boyfriend, but could not prove it. Family Law CASA was able to interview the child and the child disclosed the abuse to the advocate and the child was very credible. We were also able to obtain police reports and CPS reports from the other state where the mother lived and provided evidence the child was being abused by the mother’s boyfriend. Based on CASA’s recommendations, the judge granted primary custody to the father and ensured the child was protected from the mother’s boyfriend.
In another case, the child disclosed sexual abuse and identified the mother’s new husband as the abuser. Once again, this father had no way to prove this happened. We were able to obtain the new husband’s CPS records which contained numerous findings of sexual abuse of other child victims. This was the proof the court needed. Without Family Law CASA’s involvement, the child would be at serious risk of future sexual assault.
And these examples are not really extreme cases for Family Law CASA. These are typical CASA cases. If we can protect these children, and children like them, from abuse and neglect, we can break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. This benefits the children, the community, and future generations.
Thank you for supporting us in this endeavor!