Wednesday, July 01, 2015
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Lorain County CASA/GAL Volunteer Program

Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem

Lorain County Domestic Relations Court


2014 Annual Report


Honorable Judge Debra L. Boros

Honorable Judge Lisa I. Swenski

Honorable Judge Frank J. Janik


Court Administrator Jody Barilla







                               LORAIN COUNTY CASA/GAL PROGRAM



Every year in Lorain County hundreds of children are abused and neglected.  Many of them are removed from their homes for their own protection and placed in foster care or institutions and some are falling through the cracks in the system.  It is up to a Magistrate or Judge to decide their future.  To make a good decision, the Magistrate and or Judge need additional informationThats where Voices for Children (Lorain County Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem Program CASA/GAL) comes in.


CASA/GAL Volunteers are men and women, from all walks of life with no special legal background required, who volunteer their time to work for the Magistrate and or Judge, alongside attorneys, social workers, and other court employees.  As an appointed officer of the court, a CASA/GAL Volunteer takes the time to find out as much as he or she can about the child.  He or she reviews records; interviews parents and relatives, foster parents; talks to teachers, neighbors and most importantly the child.  When the CASA/GAL Volunteer has a complete profile, he or she appears in court to recommend to the Magistrate and or Judge what is best for the childs future.


The Voices for Children support staff is comprised of a Program Manager, a Program Coordinator and a Volunteer Coordinator.  The Program Manager assists and supports the CASA/GAL Volunteer in court hearings.  The Program Coordinator assigns the children to the CASA/GAL Volunteer and supports them in regards to report writing, hearing reminders and filing the reports in court.  The Volunteer Coordinator recruits and trains the CASA/GAL Volunteers in addition to other service providers.


All CASA/GAL Volunteers must complete 30 hours of Pre-Service Training, which includes four classroom sessions (30 hrs) and courtroom observations.  All CASA/GAL Volunteers are interviewed, screened and are subjected to a criminal background check through our Web-Check System. In conclusion of the fourth session, the Judge administers an oath to the group of volunteers to officially swear them in as Guardian ad Litems. 


The Court strives to reflect diversity within the CASA/GAL Volunteers, better serving Lorain County.  The success of the Voices for Children Program is due to the commitment of the volunteers, support staff, private citizens, community organizations, the business community and the Voices for Children Board, who assists the program in recruiting and raising funds.





Voices for Children is a member of the National CASA/GAL Association and abides by the principals and standards set forth by theses organizations.  The Voices for Children Board of Directors is a 501 C 3 Not for Profit Corporation in Lorain County that supports the efforts of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program by raising funds and supporting the staff in areas of public relations, volunteer recruitment, retention and training. 


The Board of Directors meet the first Thursday of each month at 6:00pm at the Law Library (1st floor of the Administration Building.) 226 Middle AvenueElyria, OH.  The Board of Directors accept applications for Board Appointments throughout the year.


If someone is interested in serving as a Board of Director Member, they can email a letter of interest to Scott Muska, President at  One can also visit the Voices for Children Website ( to receive information regarding the Board of Directors.



President:  Scott Muska

Vice President:  Terry Wood

Secretary:  Darlene Sparks

Treasurer:  Bobbi Burkey

Cathy Sheetz/Vera Goss/Char Gabel/Fred Courtright









Total number of Active CASA-GAL Volunteers in 2014:  160


Gender of CASA-GAL Volunteers:  (Female) 140   (Male) 20


Race/Ethnicity of CASA-GAL Volunteers: 


v African American: 14

v Asian:  2

v Caucasian:  135

v Hispanic:  6

v Multi-Racial:  3


Age of CASA-GAL Volunteers: 


  Under 21:  0

  21-29:  13

  30-39:  29

  40- 49:  31

  50-59:  33

  60 +:  54


Highest Education level completed for CASA-GAL Volunteers:


       High School:  14

       Some College:  59

       College Graduate:  42

       Post Graduate:  45


Employment status of CASA-GAL Volunteers:


  Full Time:  65

  Part Time:  29

  Student:  8

  Retired:  31

  Not Employed:  27

Career Type of CASA-GAL Volunteers


       Teacher:  31

       Other Educational Professionals:  2

       Attorney:  3

       Other Legal:  6

       Medical professional:  11

       Government/Military:  3

       Other (not otherwise listed):  104



Total number of New CASA/GAL Volunteers trained in 2014:  49


Gender of New CASA/GAL Volunteers:   (Female) 46 (Male) 3


Race/Ethnicity of New CASA/GAL Volunteers: 


  African American:  4

  Caucasian:  43

  Hispanic:  2


Total number of New CASA/GAL Volunteers assigned a case:  35








Total number of Active CASA/GAL Volunteers reported-hours contributed in 2014:  18,260


v Average length of time Active CASA-GAL Volunteers stay with the program: 46 months

v Average length of Active CASA-GAL Volunteers Case Assignments:  11 months

v Average number of cases a CASA-GAL Volunteer is appointed to at one time:  1

v Average number of children a CASA-GAL Volunteer is appointed to at one time:  2






Number of Children served by CASA-GAL Volunteers in 2014:  447


Total number of Cases served by CASA-GAL Volunteers in 2014:  219



Gender of the Children served in 2014: 


       Female: 213

       Male:  234



Age of the Children served in 2014:


v Birth to 5:  226

v 6 to 11:  149

v 12 to 15:  55

v 16 to 17: 11

v 18 and above:  6


Race/Ethnicity of the Children served in 2014:


  African American:  76

  Caucasian:  321

  Hispanic:  35

  Multi-Racial:  15














Total number of New Children assigned to a CASA-GAL Volunteer in 2014:  273


Gender of the New Children served in 2014: 


  Female: 126   

  Male: 147


Race/Ethnicity of the New Children served in 2014: 


  African American:  42

  Caucasian:  171

  Hispanic:  24

  Multi-Racial:  36


Age Range of the New Children served in 2014:


       Birth to 5:  141

       6 to 11:  92

       12-15:  34

       16-17:  4

       18 and above:  2













Total number of children whose cases were closed in 2014:  210


Number of children whose cases closed with the program for each of the following reasons:


  Adopted:  15

  Case Removed from Docket:  11

  Case transferred to another jurisdiction:  5

  Placed with Legal Guardians:  85

  Death of Child:  1

  Family Moved:  5

  Returned to home of origin:  80

  Child aged out of system:  5

  Long term Foster Care:  3



Number of Children whose cases closed in 2014 within the time periods listed:


       0 to 3 months:  45

       4 to 6 months:  32

       7 to 12 months:  85

       1 to 2 years:  35

       2 to 3 years:  8

       3 to 4 years:  2

       More than 4 years:  3









Our program trains new CASA-GAL Volunteers twice a year (Spring - March and Fall - October).  Prior to the training, all volunteers are asked to do the following:


  Submit an Application with Three (3) references (non-relatives)

  Submit a Release of Information Sheet

  Undergo a Criminal and other Background Checks

   Undergo an interview with a staff member


The Pre-Service Training includes 30 hours of classroom time (4 sessions) and Courtroom observation.  Prior to beginning Session 1, all volunteers are provided a National CASA Training Manual (10 Chapters), which is an excellent tool in teaching and equipping our new volunteers in the role as a guardian ad litem.  Our staff and guest speakers go over a host of topics and issues that are covered in the manual.  The following information is a break down of our 4 training sessions and the areas that are covered:


Session 1.


       Mission of CASA/Commitment/Advocacy/Best Interest of Children/Permanency

       Key Components of the CASA/GAL Volunteer Role-Responsibilities.

       Relationship-Boundaries with Families and Children/Level of Care

       Legal System (Judge)

       Role of the Prosecutor / Courtroom Testimony

       Role of the Defense Attorney

       Cultural Diversity Awareness Values


Session 2.


       Families:  Resources/Strengths/Stress Levels/Conflicts/Mental Health

       Child Abuse-Neglect:  Conditions and Reasons

       Substance Abuse Issues

       Domestic Violence/Poverty Issues

       Physical/Sexual/Emotional Abuse & Neglect Issues

Session 3


       Child Development/Dysfunctional Families

       Basics of Communication/Rapport-Trust Building/Confidentiality

       Interviewing Techniques

       Lorain County Children Services


Session 4


       Report Writing/Monitoring/Organization/ Record Keeping/Community Resources

       Courtroom Preparations/Appearance/Demeanor

       Mock Trial

       Guardian ad Litem Panel/Mentoring

       Putting It All Together




  Number of volunteers graduated from the Spring 2014 Pre-Service Training Class:  26


  Number of volunteers graduated from the Fall 2014 Pre-Service Training Class: 23
























Continuing Educational Training - 2014



Each volunteer guardian ad litem is asked to complete a minimum of 12 hours of continuing educational classes.  Our program offers one Saturday Morning Training Class per month.  Volunteers are also able to partake in Weekday Evening Training Classes offered through Lorain County Children Services (15-20 hours per month) as well as any training they may acquire through annual conferences through Ohio CASA as well as outside trainings throughout Lorain County.


The following is a list of Training Classes that were provided to the volunteers in 2014:


  Conflict Resolution with Children and Youth

  Substance Abuse Addictions - Issues

  De-Escalation:  Averting Crisis Behavior

  Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect

  Child Welfare Ethics

  Cycle of Violence Domestic Violence

  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Drug Exposed Children

  Dealing with Oppositional Children & Adolescents

  Cultural Diversity Disproportionality and Disparity Outcomes

  Mental Health Diagnoses - Symptoms

  Independent Living Skills Kids Aging out of the System

  Burnout Protection Being Empowered in Challenging Times

















In order to recruit new Volunteer CASA-GALs, our board and staff participate in various events in the community.  The following is a list of events that took place in the year 2014:


       Rally 4 Kids (Midway  Mall)

       Avon Duct Tape Festival (Informational Booth)

       Children Family Fund Day (Ely Square - Elyria)

       Corn Festival (North Ridgeville) (Informational Booth)

       Lorain County Fair (Wellington) (Informational Booth)

       Lorain County Labor Day Festival (Lorain) (Informational Booth)

       Elyria Apple Festival (Elyria) (Informational Booth)



The media is an excellent tool to use in order to promote program awareness and recruit new volunteers for the Voices for Children Program throughout the Lorain County.  The following is a breakdown of media outlets used by the program:


       Newspaper:  Elyria Chronicle Telegram and the Lorain Morning Journal

       Internet:  Voices for Children Website: (

       Face Book  

       Program Literature

       Speaking Engagements

       Word of Mouth