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.‘ 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? Is this really right?”
To ensure he was getting all the facts and 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 almost a million 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) volunteers.
This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977.
By 1982, it was clear that a national association was needed to direct CASA’s emerging national presence, and the National CASA Association was formed in Seattle.
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 court.
The U.S. Congress authorized the expansion of CASA with the passage of the “Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990” 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.”
Today, the National CASA Association represents over 90 local CASA programs across the country, including Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It provides support for new programs, technical assistance, training, and fundraising, media, and public awareness services.
Currently, over 70,000 volunteers serve approximately 280,000 children each year.