What is a CASA?
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) 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 Across the Country
In 1978 the National Center of State Courts selected the Seattle program as the "best national example of citizen participation in the juvenile justice system." This recognition, along with a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation of New York City (one of CASA's earliest and strongest supporters), resulted in the replication of the Seattle CASA program in courts across the country.
As CASA projects developed, each new local program director made an on-site visit to the original Seattle host program for observation and training.
By 1982 it was clear that a national association was needed to direct CASA's emerging national presence. The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association was formed that year.
CASA/GAL programs now exist in all 50 states.
CASA or GAL?
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate. A GAL is a Guardian Ad Litem. GALs are oppointed in certain types of cases. Often, the terms are used interchangeably.
CASA in Clallam County
In 1983 Clallam County started a CASA program. Merle Watson, a business man from Beaver, WA. took the Seattle CASA training and went to a National Meeting at his own expense to get our program up and running. When he left the Program in 1987 it had won the respect of the local agencies and the court.
Current Numbers and Needs
Today, in 2014, 24 community volunteers are assigned to 207 youngsters who are under the protection of the Court due to alleged abuse or neglect. The community volunteers are of all ages and walks of life.
183 volunteers are currently needed to serve all of the dependent youth in the County. The only requirement to become a CASA/GAL is a good, moral character and common sense.
Training is available for those interested in volunteer service. Independent study options exist for those with time limitations.
Please contact the CASA Office to pursue volunteer opportunities in your community!
In 2013 the CASA Program and local volunteers held various events to gather support for youth in our community. 2013 highlights include:
- Volunteer Dinner and Auction
- "Rock 'n' Roll Bike Show" with Roughnecks Motorcycle Club Victim Support Group
- Sunland Golf Tournament
- "Kicks for Kids" Shoe Drive (gathered 207 pairs of shoes--one for each child in foster care in the County)
- Winter Coat Drive by Knights of Columbus
- 16 New Volunteers Trained