House Bill 1110

February 10, 2022

We wanted to take a few minutes of your time to address any news articles you may have read or public radio stories you may have heard in the last few weeks regarding CASA, Guardian Ad Litems, and the word change being brought forth from House Bill 1110 as it modifies SDCL 26-8A-20. This statute has been in existence since 1985 (before our program even existed!) and it has never (to our knowledge) been enforced until Summer 2021 when it was brought to the attention of our current A&N Judge who immediately began to appoint Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) to any case that had reached adjudication status that did not have a CASA volunteer assigned to.

  • This was very unexpected to our program.
  • Our wait list shrank quickly as our cases were assigned to GALs. These are not GAL’s like what is sponsored by National CASA/GAL (and SD does not have a GAL program like Minnesota does, for example). The GAL’s are attorneys being appointed at the request of the Judge and paid for by Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.
  • Other programs in South Dakota were not being impacted by this. Many of the other programs (5 in total) are not an automatic referral when a petition is filed like Sioux Falls CASA is. Their Judge decides when they feel a case warrants a CASA (We believe EVERY A&N case – every child – deserves to have a CASA).
  • There are also two jurisdictions in South Dakota, the 5th and 6th Circuit, not covered by CASA programs (Aberdeen and Pierre areas) – 33 of the 66 Counties in South Dakota and none with our 9 Tribes, have CASA programs or access to CASA programs.
  • This was supposed to be a “simple” word change that brought a lot of attention and concern. People thought the CASA programs were going to be eliminated or replaced by GALs. The result was that people were learning we have many children on wait lists that are not covered by existing numbers of volunteers. Legislatures and County leaders were also learning about lack of funding and/or potential impact to their budgets because of the need to appoint GALs if a CASA is not available.
  • We are in support of the word change as it stands now. Please see the attached document.
  • HB1110 made it through the House of Representatives (Vote was 68-0) and was referred to the Senate Judiciary on 2/3/2022.
  • There is also Senate Bill 155 that has been brought forward. This bill will help supplement the losses many programs in South Dakota that serve victims of Domestic Violence experienced in the last grant cycle for VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) because of a lack of available dollars (nearly $3 million in SD). We are in support of this funding.
  • The Senate Health and Human Services heard the Senate Bill 155 late on February 9, and sent it to Joint Appropriations Committee for further deliberation.

I know this is a lot of information and it may not make sense, but I wanted to ensure that you were all aware of how things are moving forward. Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. I will do my best to answer. THANK YOU all for your time and commitment. We need more of you!!!! And now that the state leaders know this, maybe they will do more to help ensure we can recruit more!!!

Together in change,

Stacey Tieszen, Executive Director

House Bill 1110