Have Governor Walz State Board members
been misled by Program Management
in their efforts to eliminate the volunteer
CASA Guardians ad Litem program?
What will this mean if further investigation
and wrongdoing can be proved?
There is a political battle being waged over the elimination of qualified community volunteers in Child Protective Services. There are too many pieces of this puzzle to include in this article, but one piece must be addressed to determine if wrongdoing has happened in the drive to eliminate the Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers.
KARA has sent two requests to Governor Walz Guardian ad Litem State Board members over the past few months requesting a conversation about their role in making this critical decision.
No board member has yet to respond to my requests even though at least one board member told me that she would. KARA has reason to believe that the Board Chair and Program manager have directed Board Members not to respond. We know GAL employees have been threatened with termination if they said anything to the media about this circumstance.
As part of CASA Minnesota’s collaboration with the state GAL program, the state agreed to pursue a cost benefit analysis which was specifically recommended in the 2017 National Center for State Courts review.
CASAMN requested to pay half of this vital MAD report to insure objectivity. The offer was rejected. There are over 950 volunteer CASA organizations and more than 98,000 qualified, screened, and trained Volunteer GALs performing across 49 states plus the District of Columbia. If Minnesota eliminates the CASA Volunteer program, it will be an outlier as the only state to do so. These are material facts that must be included in this review.
We are concerned that the review is being used to support a pre-determined conclusion.
For example, the opening remarks on page 2 refer to program leadership seeking to perform due diligence about whether to formally end the use of volunteers.
If we were being truly objective, we would have directed the consultant to evaluate volunteer costs and benefits and allowed the data to stand on its own. To add integrity to the review process, on May 16, 2023, the MN Guardian ad Litem Board was told by program management that CASAMN would have a “seat at the table”, and the Board approved this action.
The board was also told that CASAMN would be involved in analyzing the results. This did not occur. CASAMN was not given a seat at the table; CASAM was not allowed access to the work being done or to ask questions along the way. CASAMN President Gerard Bodell was only invited to a kickoff meeting, interviewed once, and then results were shared.
- The agreed-upon cost-benefit analysis was not done.
- The analysis did not include any facts regarding the 950 volunteer CASA organizations nationally.
- CASA Minnesota was excluded from actively participating in this review as agreed to.
- The exemplary qualifications and performance of our volunteers, and their actual benefits were not a part of this report.
- The MAD consultant did not interview the most important figures that CASAMN recommended for this report (I believe deliberately). CASAMN repeatedlty requested Hennepin County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Mark Kappelhoff and CASA National director Sally Erny be interviewed. These two people are arguably the most qualified subject experts for this analysis.
Hennepin County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Mark Kappelhoff has publicly stated that the 4th District GAL program is in a crisis status because there now is a lack of substance both in oral and written communication coming from the current GAL pool, and we agree.
Judge Kappelhoff told Gerard Bodell on August 18 that he was not interviewed as part of this report. KARA suspects that the lead judge of the Juvenile bench was excluded because he was critical of the current program. The crisis has been driven by eliminating volunteers, employee turnover, open positions, and new employee GALs still learning their roles.
KARA also believes that the initial invitation to include CASA Minnesota in the MAD report was a deliberately misleading effort that will be discovered too late to stop the dissolution of the CASA volunteer Guardian ad Litem program.
Many people close to this process believe that the GAL board is making this decision under dubious reasoning and based on a biased and misleading program report which was paid for and directed by the program.
Program manager Tami Baker Olson stated to Gerard Bodell (CASAMN President) that she can compel employees to communicate and perform, and that volunteers are a different model. This indicates her primary reason for ending the CASA volunteer Guardian ad Litem program was that controlling employees was easier than controlling volunteers. More control with up to 30 cases and over 50 children per employee results in less time per child, less transparency and is not in the best interest of children. More children will be placed in harm’s way due to employee caseload standards. This at a time of full budgets – caseloads climb in down budget years.
In light of these developments, we are asking you, the GAL State Board members to revisit this State statutory language and consider that “Duties and responsibilities” are to the children and not management.
Subd.2. c. 1
(c) The board may:
(1) adopt standards, policies, or procedures necessary to ensure quality advocacy for the best interests of children; and
(2) propose statutory changes to the legislature and rule changes to the supreme court that are in the best interests of children and the operation of the guardian ad litem program.
Finally, CASAMN would like to work more closely with the board to develop more timely and meaningful policies for future State Board considerations.
For the safety of MN’s at risk children, I ask you to take a few minutes and forward this letter to:
email@example.com Assistant to Governor,
Eric.Armacanqui@state.mn.us Legislative Coordinator,
Rachel.Ganani@state.mn.us Assistant to Governor,
And to your State Rep Find your State Rep Here
Former CASA Guardian ad Litem Mike Tikkanen comments on this extraordinary circumstance further in the READ MORE:
Over two years ago, this process began when GAL program management invited CASAMN to participate in a complex exercise to adequately investigate the value (cost benefit) of volunteers.
This exercise took the time of multiple CASAMN board members and additionally for me (and even more time for CASAMN President Gerard Bodell), two years of attending meetings that were meant to be an objective evaluation of this program.
Early on, the objectivity and Cost Benefits Analysis results were abandoned and the MAD report was switched (over CASAMN objections) to a Cost Efficiency analysis that ignored the significant value volunteers brought to Child Protection (that had been listed in the earlier complex benefits exercise). This appeared to me as an obvious bait and switch to have the involvement of CASAMN as cover for this effort. Even this change to efficiency did not prove that paid staff were more efficient than volunteers, yet the MAD recommendations suggest otherwise.
Short KARA video about how this decision has come to be made.
Recent reporting by KSTP, the Star Tribune and the (Safe Passage) Investigative Report on Children Murdered by Caregivers while in Child Protective Services suggest directors and administrators revisit important decisions about to be made that could end the CASA volunteer Guardian Ad Litem Program.
There is growing awareness and interest in how the MAD report was constructed and the board’s involvement with the decision-making process in the potential elimination of the CASA volunteer program.
Allowing the State board to eliminate 10,000 future volunteers (over the next 40 years) at a time when we are reporting on significant numbers of children murdered by their parents while in Child Protective Services will be an unfixable mistake costing even more children their lives.
Rebuttals to the State MAD report from leading child advocates;
Gerard Bodell, CASAMN President
Rich Gehrman, Founder Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota
Mike Tikkanen, KARA Founder
There are many forces at play on Child Protective Services today:
Parental rights, Racial disparities,
better tracking and reporting of
critical child outcomes based metrics in CPS
and the continued over-institutionalizing
of children in the system
KARA reports on the issues of invisible children
This article submitted by Former CASA Guardian Ad Litem Mike Tikkanen
All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children
INVISIBLECHILDREN – KARA (KIDS AT RISK ACTION
“What we do to our children, they will do to our society”
(Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago)
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(They make a big difference in the lives of abused children)
Read the full story here