SENATE BILL NO. 213
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 31 AND TITLE 10, DELAWARE CODE, TO CREATE A COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE PROGRAM.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Title 31. Delaware Code, by adding thereto a new Chapter 36 to read as follows:
"CHAPTER 36. COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE PROGRAM
(a) Children who appear in the Family Court as the subject of abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings often are situated In the middle of an adversary process. At times, these children have no one to represent their best Interests. u opposed to the Interests of the petitioner and respondent. Furthermore, when the child hu no one to represent his or her interests, the Family Court may only receive information which supports the position of the petitioner or respondent. Therefore, the purpose of this Chapter is to provide for a system to ensure that children who are the subject of abuse. neglect, or dependency, have their Interest represented in those proceedings before the Family Court. To this end, the Family Court will establish and administer a Court Appointed Special Advocate Program.
(b) This Chapter shall be liberally construed that these purposes may be realized.
For the purpose of this Chapter. unless the context indicates differently:
(I) 'Abused child' mew a child who hu suffered physical harm Inflicted non- accidentally upon the child by parents or persons exercising essentially equivalent custody and control over the child, which injury causes or creates a substantial risk of causing death, disfigurement, impairment of bodily functioning, or other physical injury.
(2) 'Adequate care' means a type and degree of personalized attention that will tend to advance a child's physical, mental, emotional, and general well- being.
(3) 'Adult' means a person who hu reached his 18th birthday.
(4) 'Child' means a person who hu not reached his 18th birthday.
(5) 'Court' means The Family Court of the State of Delaware.
(6) 'Dependent child' means a child whose physical, mental, or emotional health and well being is threatened or impaired because of inadequate care and protection by the child's custodian, who is unable to provide adequate care for the child, whether or not caused by the child's behavior, provided, however, that for the purposes of this Chapter, dependent child may Include a child who hu been placed in a nonrelated home on a permanent bash without the consent and approval of the Division of Child Protective Services or any agency licensed thereby to place children in a nonrelated home: or who has been placed with a licensed agency which certifies it cannot complete a suitable adoption plan.
(7) 'Neglected child' means a child whose physical, mental, or emotional health and well being is threatened or impaired because of inadequate care and protection by the child's custodian, who has the ability and financial means to provide adequate care; or a child who hu been abused or neglected as defined by §902 of Title 16. No child who In good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church Of religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall for that reason alone be considered a neglected child for purpose of this Chapter.
§3603. Established; CoMPolitiOn
(a) There is hereby established a Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA) within the Family Court.
(b) The program will include a Director, who will be responsible for the administration of the program including recruitment. selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of staff.(c) The program will include Coordinators who will be members of the staff of Family Court. The number and qualifications of Coordinators will be established by the Chief Judge of the Family Court. The Coordinators will be part of the Merit System, with a classification of Social Service Administrator. The Coordinators will be responsible for the day- to-day operations of the program and will provide direct supervision to the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). The Coordinators will be supervised by the Director.
(d) The program will include an attorney who will provide legal representation and advice for the Court Appointed Special Advocates and supervise volunteer attorneys. The program attorney will be a member of the staff of the Family Court and supervised by the Chief Judge.
(e) The program will include Family Court volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates. The Court Appointed Special Advocate may be appointed in Family Court proceedings involving abuse, neglect, dependency, or other circumstances as deemed appropriate by a Family Court Judge. The responsibility of the Court Appointed Special Advocate is to represent the best interest of the child(ren) whether or not that reflects the wishes of the child. The Court Appointed Special Advocate will serve at the pleasure of the Chief Judge of Family Court. The Court Appointed Special Advocate will:
(1) Provide independent, factual information to the Family Court regarding the cases to which they are appointed.
(2) Provide advocacy for the children involved in the cases to which they are appointed.
(3) At the request of the Judge, will monitor cases to which they have been appointed to assure that the terms of the Court's Orders have been fulfilled.
(f) The program will include appropriate clerical personnel to meet the needs of the program who will be Merit System employee members of the Family Court staff.
§3604. Qualifications of Court Appointed Special Advocates
(a) Court Appointed Special Advocate shall be individuals who have demonstrated an interest in children and their welfare. Court Appointed Special Advocate must be willing to participate in a training course conducted by the Family Court and in ongoing training and supervision throughout their involvement in the program. Additionally, applicants to become Court Appointed Special Advocate must participate in interviews to determine their fitness for these responsibilities. Upon recommendation of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Coordinator, the Chief Judge of the Family Court will make a final determination regarding a person's participation in the program.
(b) The Court Appointed Special Advocate must be willing to commit to the Court for one year of service. At the end of each year of service, the Court Appointed Special Advocate with the approval of the Coordinator may recommit for another year.
(c) Court Appointed Special Advocates will have no associations which create a conflict of interest with their duties as an Court Appointed Special Advocate.
(d) Qualified adults shall not be discriminated against based upon sex, socioeconomic, religious, racial, ethnic, or age factors.
§3605. Appointment of Court Appointed Special Advocates
(a) Ail Court Appointed Special Advocates must be sworn in by the Chief Judge or an Associate Judge of Family Court before beginning their duties.
(b) Any Family Court Judge may appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate when, in the opinion of the Judge, a child requires services which can be provided by the Court Appointed Special Advocate.
(c) To accomplish the appointment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a Family Court Judge must sign an Order of Appointment, which shall grant the Court Appointed Special Advocate the authority to review all relevant documents and interview all parties involved in the case, as well as others having significant information relating to the child.
(d) The appointment shall last until the Court Appointed Special Advocate is released from responsibility by Order of the Court; or until the Court Appointed Special Advocate's commitment to the Court ends,
(e) The Court Appointed Special Advocate shall be a party to any Court agreement or Court plan entered into on behalf of the child(ren).
§3606 Duties of Court Appointed Special AdvocatesThe Court Appointed Special Advocate will conduct an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding a case of appointment. This investigation will include interviews and/or observations with the child and relevant individuals and the review of appropriate records and reports.
(a) The Court Appointed Special Advocate will report the results of the investigation to the Family Court.
(b) The Court Appointed Special Advocate will follow the direction of orders entered by Family Court and will provide information specifically requested by the Court.
§3607. Rights of the Court Appointed Special Advocate
(a) The Court Appointed Special Advocate's attorney may file pleadings, motions, memorandum and briefs on behalf of the child. The Court Appointed Special Advocate's attorney will receive copies of pleadings, motions and other documents filed by the parties.
(b) The Court Appointed Special Advocate may request a hearing before the Court when the plan on behalf of the child is not implemented or is not meeting the child's needs or upon completion of the investigation.
(c) The Court Appointed Special Advocate may examine and cross- examine witnesses and may aubpeona, introduce and examine his own witnesses.
(d) The attorney for the Court Appointed Special Advocate shall receive copies of all requests for discovery and responses to same.
(e) The Court Appointed Special Advocate may make recommendations to the Court concerning the child's welfare.
(f) The Court Appointed Special Advocate shall be charged in general with the representation of the child's interest. To that end he/she shall participate further in the proceedings to the degree necessary to adequately represent the child.
§3608. Status of Court Appointed Special Advocate
For the purposes of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act grant to states under Public Law 93--247 or any related State or Federal Legislation, the Court Appointed Special Advocate shall be deemed a guardian ad Utem to represent the interests of the minor in proceedings before the Court. No bond shall be required from any Court Appointed Special Advocate who serves as a guardian cd litem under this Chapter.
All records and information acquired or reviewed by a Court Appointed Special Advocate during the course of the duties shall be deemed confidential and shall be disclosed only pursuant to Court Order.
§3610. Notice of Hearings
The Court Appointed Special Advocate will be notified of hearings, starlings, investigations, dispositions, or other proceedings concerning the case to which the Court Appointed Special Advocate has been appointed.
§3611. Acquisition of Information by The Court Appointed Special Advocate
Upon presentation of the Order of Appointment by the Court Appointed Special Advocate, any agency, hospital, school, organization, Division or Department of State, doctor, nurse, or other health care providers, psychologist, psychiatrist, police department, or mental health clinic shall permit the Advocate to inspect and copy any records relating to the child(ren) and parents involved in the case of appointment without consent of the child(ren) or parents.
§3612. Civil Liability of Participants in the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program
The Director, Coordinators, Attorneys, and Court Appointed Special Advocates participating in the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program shall not be civilly liable for acts or omissions committed in connection with duties which are part of the program If they have acted in good faith and are not guilty or gross negligence.
§3613. Conflict with lighting LawAny provisions of this Chapter which shall cause the State to lose federal funding shall be considered null and void.
If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of this Act are declared to be severable."
Section 2. Amend §925, Title 10, Delaware Code, by adding thereto a new subsection (17) to read as follows:
"(17) To Appoint Court Appointed Special Advocates in Child Abuse and Neglected Cases."
Approved July 3, 1985.