In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA saw a recurring problem that plagued him. In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, at the end of the day he felt certain he could say “I’ve done my best; I can live with this decision.” However, when children were involved he didn’t leave his day with the same certainty. He often wondered, “Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?”
He recognized that professionals working in the child welfare system often had unmanageable caseloads and were seriously overworked. He was concerned that he was making decisions with insufficient information. To ensure he was getting all the facts and that the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, Judge Soukup 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 and has grown exponentially since that time.
In Gallatin County:
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.
*CASA/GAL of Gallatin County became an official non-profit, 501c3 organization in 2000 and is affiliated with and accredited by the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association.