Policy Agenda

CASA Proposed Legislative Agenda for the
2019-2021 Session

Criminal Background checks for volunteers
Our current statute for criminal background checks (13.34.100(3)(j)) requires that a CASA volunteers background check be updated annually. Recent audits of local counties background check procedures by the Washington State Patrol has interpreted this to mean that all aspects of the background check be updated annually – including FBI fingerprint based checks.

We’d request the legislature to clarify this language and require fingerprint based background checks every three years, in line with what other volunteers and staff in school districts and DCYF providers and staff require of those with direct access to children. The annual update requirement can remain, and CASA programs can use the WSP “Watch” program for this update.

Proposed language:

13.34.100(3) (j) Criminal history, as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, for the period covering ten years prior to the appointment.
The background information record shall be updated annually; fingerprint based checks updated every three years. As a condition of appointment, the guardian ad litem’s background information record shall be made available to the court. If the appointed guardian ad litem is not a member of a guardian ad litem program a suitable person appointed by the court to act as guardian ad litem shall provide the background information record to the court.
Upon appointment, the guardian ad litem, or guardian ad litem program, shall provide the parties or their attorneys with a copy of the background information record. The portion of the background information record containing the results of the criminal background check and the criminal history shall not be disclosed to the parties or their attorneys. The background information record shall not include identifying information that may be used to harm a guardian ad litem, such as home addresses and home telephone numbers, and for volunteer guardians ad litem the court may allow the use of maiden names or pseudonyms as necessary for their safety.

Child focused 30 day shelter care
Click here to see our current draft statutory proposal.

Currently, state statute requires that “no child may be placed in shelter care for longer than 30 days without an order, signed by the judge, authorizing continued shelter care.”
In many jurisdictions across the state, this is currently administered by the State presenting the court a “status quo” order ex parte, continuing the child’s placement in foster care.

CASA believes this is a missed opportunity for the court and the parties to have a meaningful hearing as to the status of the child early on in the dependency process, and believe that such a hearing, in front of judicial officer, could help set all dependency cases on a better trajectory with better outcomes and faster permanence.
We’d like to see this hearing serve as a status check on the case 30 days following the emergency shelter care hearing that placed the child in care. We’d like the statute to ask the court to inquire about the status of the following items:

• What is the status of visitation between the child and parent(s)? Have they occurred, and if not, why? Are sibling visits occurring?
• Where is the child currently placed? How many times has placement changed since the child has been brought into care?
• Who will be the on-going social worker? Parents attorneys? Has a CASA been assigned?
• Have any relatives of the child stepped forward as a potential resource for the child, such as a placement option or willingness to assist with visitation?
• Has paternity been established?
• What are the results of the CHET screen for the child? Are there any services for the child that need to be started?
• Has a preliminary offer of services for the parents been made? If so, are the parents willing to participate in any? Are the parents currently enrolled in any services?
• What is the status of any ICWA notices and if applicable, how does the tribe wish to engage?

In order to draft some potential language for what this hearing could possibly look like, Washington State CASA has convened a workgroup consisting of members from the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of Public Defense, DCYF, the Ombuds Office, the courts and judiciary.

Other items we’re watching:
• Mandatory appointment of attorneys for children in dependency cases
• Implementation of the Family First Prevention Act
• Ensuring that CASA has a seat on the DCYF oversight board

Click here to see the 2019-2021 CASA Funding Request!