History of CASA

Superior Court Judge David Soukup
In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, saw a recurring problem in his courtroom:

In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, you walked out of the courthouse at the end of the day and you said, 'I've done my best; I can live with this decision,' he explains.

"But when you're involved with a child and you're trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child's growth into a mature and happy adult, you don't feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision. You can't walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o'clock. You wonder, 'Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?'"

To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, the Seattle judge came up with an idea that would change America's judicial procedure and the lives of thousands of children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) /Guardian ad Litem volunteers. This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977.

In 1986, Judge Joseph Gary, a District Court Judge in Gallatin County, attended a National Judge's Conference where he heard about the CASA/Guardian ad Litem Program and how they were helping Judges to make informed decisions in their cases involving abused and neglected children. He came back to Bozeman and started up the Gallatin County Program.  Since that day, the CASA/GAL program has been able to represent 100% of the abused and neglected children in the abuse and neglect cases in Gallatin County.  The program is one of very few programs in the nation who has been able to represent every child in the system.
  • On April 22, 1985, President Ronald Reagan presented the National CASA Association with the President's Volunteer Action Award for "outstanding volunteer contribution, demonstrating accomplishment through voluntary action".

  • In August of 1989, the American Bar Association, the country's largest professional organization of attorneys, officially endorsed the use of CASA volunteers to work with attorneys to speak for abused and neglected children.

  • In July of 1990, The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges named CASA "Outstanding Volunteer Program" in America's juvenile and family courts.

  • Also during that year the U.S. Congress authorized the expansion of CASA with the passage of the "Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990" (P.L. 101-647). So that a "court-appointed special advocate shall be available to every victim of child abuse or neglect in the United States that needs such an advocate."

  • In July of 1991, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, named CASA an "Exemplary National Program in Juvenile Delinquency Prevention".

  • Today, the National CASA Association represents over 933 programs across the country in 49 states and the District of Columbia. It provides support for starting programs, technical assistance, training and fundraising, media and public awareness services.