Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) act as advocates for children who have been removed from their home and placed in the custody of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services because of allegations of severe abuse and neglect. After completing two Court Appointed Special Advocates evaluations in East Texas and Travis County, a follow-up study was initiated by the Center for Social Work Research in January of 1999. This study is designed to investigate the effects of two new pieces of legislation on the CASA of Travis County program and recommend changes to the program in light of the study findings.

In January 1998, the legislature of the state of Texas passed new ‘time limits’ legislation limiting the amount of time children may remain in alternative care in abuse and neglect cases. In September 1998, another piece of legislation was passed allowing CASA volunteers to serve in the role of Guardian Ad Litem in child abuse and neglect cases.

Forty CASA cases have been randomly selected and reviewed by project staff: 20 cases opened prior to and 20 cases opened after the new “time limits” legislation. In addition, stakeholders in the child welfare system including attorneys, judges, Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) supervisors, DPRS caseworkers, CASA supervisors, and CASA volunteers are being interviewed to determine their perception of the influence of the new legislation on CASA and the child welfare system in general.

The results of the study indicate that three positive outcomes have occurred since the passage of time limits legislation: a stable re-entry rate of children coming back into the child protection system, more adoptions, and a greater focus on relative placements. In general, respondents indicated that time limits legislation had a positive effect on CASA, DPRS, and the court system.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County
Hogg Foundation for Mental Health