May 22 2018

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest: Why CASA volunteers can’t be foster parents

by Ashika Sethi

img-volunteer-foster-listing.jpgIt can be hard to choose which outlet you want to use to help children in our community – from becoming a foster parent, to a respite foster placement, to a CASA volunteer, there are many options available. However, there can be some complications if one chooses to become more than one of these options simultaneously.

One conflict of interest that has arisen here in the past at CASA of Travis County is when a current foster parent wants to become a CASA volunteer. If you are actively running a foster home, you are ineligible to be a CASA volunteer for several reasons.

"CASA volunteers have a unique perspective on a child’s life."

The overarching reason one can’t simultaneously be a CASA volunteer and foster parent is due to the fact that CASA volunteers have a unique perspective on a child’s life. If a CASA volunteer is also a current foster parent, that perspective could be clouded (or could be perceived as clouded) by other workers on the case, potentially invalidating a CASA volunteer’s advocacy.

Take the hypothetical story of Sally and Aiden. In this scenario, Sally is both a foster parent and a CASA volunteer. Sally is advocating for Aiden, the child on her case, while also housing several children at her foster home. Sally advocates that Aiden’s parents relinquish their parental rights and that Aiden should be adopted by his current foster parents. 

In the trial that ensues in order to terminate parental rights, Aiden’s parent’s attorney brings up the fact that Sally is a foster parent. They argue that Sally’s judgement is clouded (either subconsciously or consciously) by the fact that she is a foster parent, and not bringing a truly unique perspective to the case as a CASA volunteer. If Sally weren’t a current foster parent, the attorney argues, Sally wouldn’t advocate for Aiden’s parents to relinquish their rights.

Since Sally has two different perspectives on the child welfare system, her advocacy as a CASA volunteer could be invalidated.

In the same vein, one cannot be a current CPS caseworker or an attorney who works in the child welfare court system while being a CASA volunteer.

That being said, we’ve had multiple CASA volunteers serve on a case or two and decide that they want to transition into becoming a foster parent instead. Serving as a CASA volunteer can be a great way for future foster parents to learn more about the role and how the Travis County child welfare court system runs. We have also had former foster parents become CASA volunteers, and some people that switch back and forth over the years based on what their schedule and life allows at the time.

May Advocacy 2018

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