Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $11,171,647)
Over 650,000 children experience abuse or neglect in the United States annually and hundreds of thousands are placed in foster care. Research on youth in foster care consistently demonstrates they are among the most underserved, at-risk and high-risk in our country. Many exhibit multiple characteristics predictive of or correlative to involvement in the juvenile justice system. Given the specific needs of at-risk children and youth in foster care, there is a significant need to provide children before the court with best-interest advocacy that addresses the risk factors and negative outcomes they experience. Court appointed special advocate (CASA)/guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers are routinely appointed to serve youth characterized with the highest levels of risk among youth in the child welfare system. National CASA/GAL Association supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for children who have experienced abuse and neglect so that every child can be safe, establish permanence, and have the opportunity to thrive. In 2019, 948 state and local CASA/GAL programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia recruited, trained and supervised 96,929 volunteers. They worked individually with 276,929 children to ensure that the best interests of the child are met by the court, child welfare system and community. Studies have demonstrated the life-changing impact of the CASA/GAL model: children are less likely to re-enter the system after their cases have been dismissed, more likely to do better in school and they and their families are more likely to receive needed services. The CASA nationwide network currently does not have the capacity to serve all abused and neglected children in need of best interest advocacy. To expand volunteer advocacy to more children, National CASA/GAL provides technical assistance and training to local and state CASA/GAL organizations, awareness and outreach to the public, funding through grants and standards and membership requirements linked to a system to ensure that programs maintain good governance and the highest quality program management and operations. Requested funding will provide these important resources and more to the network. Results will be measured by growth in number of children served and volunteers recruited, screened and trained, as well as increase in the number of children who exit to reunification, adoption or legal guardianship. No portion of the project budget will be used to conduct project evaluations, as described by OJJDP in the “Note on Project Evaluations” section on page 9 of the Grant Announcement.