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.
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.
“It terrified me to make decisions about kids when I didn’t have anybody there.”
National CASA standards describe the major criteria the CASA/GAL volunteer must meet. 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.
- 1977: Judge Soukup starts the first CASA/GAL program in Seattle (King County), Washington.
- 1977: A National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges committee endorses the program as a model for safeguarding a child’s rights to a safe and permanent family.
- 1978: Judge John F. Mendoza of Nevada suggests the term “court-appointed special advocate” to designate the lay court-appointed volunteers.
- 1982: The first Annual CASA Conference is held in Nevada, and participants vote to establish the National CASA Association.
- 1982: The number of CASA/GAL programs reaches 88.
- 1983: Twenty-nine states have CASA/GAL programs.
- 1984: The National CASA Association forms in Seattle.
- 1984: National CASA enters into its first cooperative agreement with the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
- 1985: President Ronald Reagan presents National CASA with the President’s Volunteer Action Award.
- 1985: 10,000 children served annually through 159 programs
- 1987: 40,000 children served by 12,000 volunteers in 271 local programs and 44 states
- 1988: Tribal courts first begin CASA programs through grants to five tribes.
- 1989: National CASA becomes Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation’s national charity.
- 1990: 72,000 children served by 17,000 volunteers in 412 program offices
- 1991: The CASA program is first authorized in the Victims of Child Abuse Act.
- 1995: 129,000 children served by 38,000 volunteers in 642 program offices
- 1996: Congress amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to allow the required GAL to be an attorney or CASA volunteer.
- 1997: The National Bar Association endorses CASA volunteer advocacy.
- 2000: 174,000 children served by 47,000 volunteers in 900 program offices
- 2003: National CASA’s partnership with Jewelers for Children, our largest private funder, begins.
- 2007: CASA network reaches 2 million children served since inception.
- 2015: National CASA begins a partnership with Akerman LLP, a top law firm.
- 2016: National CASA Association opens an office in Washington, D.C.