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Advocate Tip:  Reading Case Files

Case File Reading: Is Once Enough?

One of the first steps when beginning a new case is to read the case file. By reading the case file, Advocates are able to obtain important information about how the children came into care, as well as any past history the family may have with CPS. While the initial reading of the case file is very important, it can be just as important to read the case file as the case progresses.

Why Advocates Should Consider Additional Readings

The initial reading of a case file should provide Advocates with a basic understanding of the circumstances that brought the children into CPS care. However, the information contained in the case file at the beginning of a case can be very limited. If a family has not had a previous history of involvement with CPS, the case file will likely be very minimal and contain only basic information about the family. Advocates are able to obtain additional information through caseworkers, service providers, caregivers, attorneys, and other people involved in the children’s lives. Additional readings of the case file provide an opportunity to gather information that may have been missed the first time.  

What To Look For In Subsequent Readings

As a case progresses, additional information is obtained by the caseworker from parents, attorneys, caregivers, and service providers. Parents may provide the caseworker with certificates for services they have completed, verification of their employment, or proof of their housing. Caregivers will often provide caseworkers with incident reports and educational information regarding the children. Caseworkers will also obtain reports from the parents’ service providers regarding their participation in services. Other information that will likely be added to the case file as the case progresses include therapy notes, psychological evaluations, drug assessments and drug test results, home studies, medical records, and other legal documents related to the case.

Things to Consider Regarding Additional Readings

Advocates should discuss with their CASA Supervisor/Peer Coordinator the need for additional case file readings. Advocates should also discuss when the additional readings should take place. In some situations, reading the case file before each court hearing may be appropriate. In other cases, reading the case file prior to the trial may be sufficient.


  1. What reasons might an Advocate have for reading the case file more than once?
  2. List five pieces of information an Advocate may need to look for in additional case readings.
  3. How many times should an Advocate read the case file? Explain your answer.

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Elisabeth Reise at