§ 40-11-14. Right to representation in court proceedings.
(a) Any child who is alleged to be abused or neglected as a subject of a petition filed in family court under this chapter, shall have a guardian ad litem appointed by the court to represent this child.
(b) A volunteer court-appointed special advocate may be assigned to assist the guardian ad litem, in the court-appointed special advocate's office (CASA):
(1) In order to assist the family court with the ability to ensure that these volunteers, whose activity involves routine contact with minors, are of good moral character, all persons seeking to volunteer for CASA shall be required to undergo a national criminal records check for the purpose of determining whether the prospective volunteer has been convicted of any crime.
(i) A national criminal records check shall include fingerprints submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by the department of children, youth and families (DCYF) for a national criminal records check. The national criminal records check shall be processed prior to the commencement of volunteer activity.
(ii) For the purposes of this section, "conviction" means, in addition to judgments of conviction entered by a court subsequent to a finding of guilty or a plea of guilty, those instances where the defendant has entered a plea of nolo contendere and has received a sentence of probation and that sentence has not expired and those instances where a defendant has entered into a deferred sentence agreement with the attorney general.
(iii) For the purposes of this section, "disqualifying information" means information produced by a national criminal records check pertaining to conviction for the offenses designated as "disqualifying information" pursuant to DCYF policy.
(iv) The department of children, youth and families (DCYF) shall inform the applicant, in writing, of the nature of the disqualifying information; and, without disclosing the nature of the disqualifying information, shall notify the family court, in writing, that disqualifying information has been discovered.
(v) In those situations in which no disqualifying information has been found, DCYF shall inform the applicant and the family court, in writing, of this fact.
(vi) The family court shall maintain on file evidence that national criminal records checks have completed on all volunteer court-appointed special advocates.
(vii) The criminal record check shall be conducted without charge to the prospective CASA volunteers. At the conclusion of the background check required pursuant to this section, DCYF shall promptly destroy the fingerprint record of the applicant obtained pursuant to this chapter.
(2) All persons seeking to volunteer for CASA must submit a satisfactory DCYF clearance and participate in a program of training offered by the CASA office.
(c) If the parent or other person responsible for the child's care is financially unable to engage counsel as determined by the court, the court may, at the request of that person, and in its discretion, appoint the public defender, or other counsel, to represent the person. The cost of other counsel in those instances shall be paid by the state. In every court proceeding under this chapter in which it is a party, the department shall be represented by its legal counsel.
(P.L. 1976, ch. 91, § 2; P.L. 1981, ch. 324, § 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 377, § 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 127, § 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 147, § 1.)