Where it all Began
Inspiration came to Seattle juvenile court judge David W. Soukup in 1976. Judge Soukup had insufficient information to make a life-changing decision for a 3-year-old girl who had suffered from child abuse.
That’s where the idea came from: These children, who had experienced abuse or neglect, needed trained volunteers speaking up in the courtroom for their best interests.
“It terrified me to make decisions about kids when I didn’t have anybody there.”
The Program began in King County in 1977. The guardian ad litem did not have to be an attorney. They recruited volunteers from the community and provided training and support. Similar programs were developed in other states/localities as judges spread the word of the concept.
The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA) was created in 1982 to support volunteer child advocate programs and increase volunteer child advocates nationwide. Hallmarks of a CASA/GAL volunteer program include Advocacy for abused and neglected children in court, volunteers who are recruited, screened, trained, supervised, and supported, and adherence to national standards.
The following statements describe the CASA/GAL volunteer:
An individual who has been screened and trained by the CASA/GAL program and appointed by the court to advocate for children who come into the court system primarily due to alleged abuse or neglect.
An individual who respects a child’s inherent right to grow up with dignity in a safe environment that meets that child’s best interests.
An individual who assures that the child’s best interests are represented in the court at every stage of the case.