, I wrote at the Volunteer Guardian- (VGAL) program in Snohomish County, Wash., an affiliate of the state’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) network.
CASA is a of the child welfare system, a system that tears apart families that are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately families of color. The ever done of the program found that it does nothing to make children safer. The study also found that CASA prolongs foster care and reduces the chances children will be placed with relatives instead of strangers.
Last year, I wrote about how Judge Anita Farris found that a volunteer for the Snohomish County program “infiltrated” – the judge’s word – a listserv for family defense attorneys and passed on what she’d learned so her program could use the information against families. The judge called the guardian’s explanation of her actions “filled with lies.”
But that was only the beginning. In two more court rulings, revolving around the same termination of parental rights case, Judge Farris has blasted the VGAL program for “the blatant withholding and destruction of evidence and … rampant continuing lying …”
decision, the judge said her rulings “should not be interpreted to mean the entire program or every VGAL has committed misconduct. They have not.” But for those who did, she declared: “The misconduct was not minor or insubstantial. It was pervasive and egregious.”
There’s more about this ruling in this story from KING-TV:
The judge found that the misconduct violated state and county rules for Guardians . The program’s explanation: According to the judge, well into the proceedings, the head of the program declared that no one in the program had ever heard of such rules. Said Judge Farris:
Judge Farris found that VGALs get training in “how to keep things out of discovery,” the legal process by which each party obtains information from the other essential for preparing their case. These actions, she said, denied parents information they have an “absolute right” to receive. Sometimes, she wrote, the files just disappeared:
The judge found that a supervisor provided trial testimony that was:
After the judge describes what she said was one misrepresentation after another, she concludes:
Also, according to Judge Farris:
The judge noted similar complaints in other cases, though she did not rule on their validity:
After listing several more instances she deemed acts of retaliation, Judge Farris concluded:
As of March 13, 2017, for the Snohomish VGAL program states that it is still “accredited by the National CASA Association and is an associated member of Washington State CASA.”
Perhaps those groups should take a closer look at what’s going on in Snohomish County.