South Dakota Lawmakers Vote to Expand Courts’ Discretion in Growing Child Abuse Cases
South Dakota is struggling to manage its overburdened child protection program as senators vote to decide if the courts should have the right to appoint a child’s guardian ad litem and an independent advocate to work with the child and make recommendations to the court. Rob and Kathleen Raskin are making sure you and everyone else outside of the local and state coverage area are aware of issues like this, which seem to be happening simultaneously in every state.
Currently, when the South Dakota courts are presented with a child abuse case by an attorney, the child is accompanied by the guardian ad litem, which means the child’s legal guardian for the purposes of the case, and a representative of an existing program called the Court Appointed Special Advocates aka CASA, who has been trained to work with the children and make recommendations to the court.
Due to the shortage of CASA volunteers, their importance to the outcome of a case and for arriving at justice for the children is what’s currently being discussed. House Bill 1110 allows the courts to appoint the advocates needed in a case of child abuse or neglect, which it typically sources from CASA, and guardians ad litem “when determined necessary by the court.”
While both sides of the aisle agree that it’s a good program, some lawmakers on both sides are concerned the lack of existing CASA caseworkers combined with a legal necessity to have one for each case will do two things: 1. Slow down the court’s already slow pace at handling caseloads, which keeps the children in jeopardy, and 2. Shift costs to the county for paying to recruit and train new CASA workers with money it doesn’t have.