History of Court Appointed Special Advocates
In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, observed 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 over a million children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.
This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977. During that first year, the program provided 110 trained CASA volunteers for 498 children in 376 dependency cases.
CASA of Fresno County was established in late 1996 with one full-time staff member and a handful of volunteers. In 2006 the California Judicial Council granted CASA the opportunity to also serve Madera County. Today CASA employs full-time staff and is supporting and equipping more than 150 volunteer Advocates as they annually serve 300 of the 2,500 abused and neglected children in foster care in Fresno and Madera Counties.
CASA volunteers are from all backgrounds and every walk of life. They are dedicated men and women who work diligently to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable children are not further neglected or compounded by an overwhelmed and unresponsive system. Teaming up with social workers, attorneys, foster parents, therapists, doctors, teachers, and the myriad of other individuals responsible for the care of foster kids, they labor to make certain the children for whom they are advocating have the best possible chance at a happy, healthy, and successful future. They believe that this is an opportunity every child deserves, because every child counts!