GRIC becomes first Tribal Community in the State to have National CASA Certification

Velia Moncada

Gila River Indian News

On Nov. 1, the Gila River Indian Community Court swore-in two special advocates, David George and Carmen Duarte to the newly established program of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem Association for Children (National CASA/GAL) Program.


The National CASA/GAL program contains 940 programs that recruit, train, and support volunteers who become advocates for the best interest of children who are wards of the court. The Gila River Indian Community Court appoints these volunteers to provide a voice for children as they work to ensure children are receiving the necessary services and aid to help the youth thrive in safe and permanent homes. GRIC is one out of 20 tribes endorsed under the National CASA certification out of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States and is currently the only tribe in Arizona to be certified for CASA/GAL.


“I work with children, some of which are wards of the court and I understand the need for child advocacy,” said Duarte in an interview with the GRIN. She has spent over 27 years within the Community.


Duarte considers her advocacy role as an opportunity to engage in her civic duties, while enhancing and supporting adult-child relations for children who are in the child welfare system. She expressed a firm belief that a CASA can make the difference in the life of a child and plans to utilize the skills the program has taught her and is mindful that in her role will be the eyes, ears and voice of the child and in all situations, promote child well-being and safety. 


George said in his interview with the GRIN, that as a respectful outsider he has been blessed to have been a part of the Community for so many years in his days of service as a social worker.

Although, he has had his heart broken by the stories he’s encountered, “Learning that there’s 800 kids in the system away from their families, that’s what made me want to do this,” said George.

Both, George and Duarte strongly encourage Community members to become advocates as there is a critical need for them and it is rewarding in the end.


Sharon Banda, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Coordinator said, “I feel that this is a beneficial program, when you give children the proper attention, they change. They know somebody is there for them and kids really respond to that.” 


Banda is passionate about helping children find significance, purpose and a good path. With the assistance of CASA/GAL volunteers, the program will work with Tribal Social Services, service providers, and the court to ensure that the children’s needs are met and their voices are being heard. 


CASA/GAL’s vision is for every child to be safe, nurtured and granted the opportunity to grow in an environment well-suited to the honor of their culture/tribal identity. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Sharon Banda, CASA/GAL Coordinator, at (520) 562-9860 or email