When a CASA volunteer enters a youth’s life, there is a multitude of people a CASA must interact with in order to fully assess their case. From social workers, to therapists and teachers, there are so many professionals to consult with, including the foster parent. While relationships between the youth and foster parent can sometimes vary, it is essential that the CASA form a positive relationship with the foster parent. CASA Supervisor Kerry Morley, MSW encourages her CASAs to build such relationships and stresses that the relationship between a CASA and a foster parent can ultimately produce better outcomes for the child.
CASAs can start off on the right foot by taking the time to meet with the foster parent from the outset, and explaining that the role of a CASA is to advocate for the child. In order to do that, the CASA must fully explore all facets of their life, including the foster parent’s perspectives. Morley advises that CASA Volunteers should “consider the foster parents as part of the team, engage with them and build relationships with them because they see the child every day.” As noted in a previous blog post, the role of a GAL and CASA seem very similar so helping the foster parent to distinguish between the CASA and GAL or Social Worker is vital. Morley suggests reminding foster parents that CASA volunteers are their own entity and are there as an extra resource for all parties.
Having a strong relationship with the foster parent can also make the CASA volunteer’s role easier. An engaged foster parent can help to facilitate visits. This may be especially helpful in the beginning when youth are skeptical of the CASA, a foster parent can help to encourage the youth to meet with the CASA.
Morley notes that a communicative relationship between the CASA volunteer and the foster parent “can aide in permanency by allowing for brainstorming, early problem solving, and shared goals.”
A communicative relationship can help the CASA volunteer gather important information about the youth. Initially, the foster parent will most likely have a stronger relationship with the youth and may talk with their foster parent about concerns which can be discussed with the CASA. Alternatively, if there are issues in the foster home, both parties may be able to come to the CASA volunteer before the problems get out of hand. CASA volunteers who have stronger relationships with foster parents report that their youth have less disruptions in placements as a result of their open communication. In these cases, foster parents feel comfortable talking to the CASA about issues and are more open to problem solving.
CASA DC’s goal is to ensure that every child has a safe, permanent home. Morley notes that a communicative relationship between the CASA volunteer and the foster parent “can aide in permanency by allowing for brainstorming, early problem solving, and shared goals.” If CASAs are unsure how to initiate a relationship with their youth’s foster parent, CASA Supervisors such as Morley can coach volunteers on these interactions. CASA volunteers also undergo a comprehensive training before being assigned to a case. For more information about CASA training, visit casadc.org/volunteer.