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Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program

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. In 1982, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association was formed to help support CASA's emerging national presence. CASA/GAL programs now exist in all 50 states.


A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate. A GAL is a Guardian Ad Litem. GALs are appointed 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

In 2017, the Clallam County CASA Program had two Program Managers and 19 CASA volunteers serving 220 youth in dependency. Case filings were up while volunteerism was at an all-time low. That fall, the CASA Program applied for and was awarded a 20-month, federal grant through the Department of Commerce to support Victims of Crime (VOCA). The grant allowed the temporary addition of two full-time Volunteer Coordinators and one part-time Administrative Assistant to focus entirely on volunteer recruitment and support. The grant was wildly successful resulting in improved community awareness and the recruitment, training, and support of 55 new volunteers within 12 months. Although the grant has ended as well as the new positions, the Board of County Commissioners has agreed to continue funding one of the two Volunteer Coordinator positions.

Today, we have over 70 community volunteers and on average we have 200 children 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.

Many more 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!

Program Highlights

In 2018-19, the CASA Program and local volunteers attended or participated in various events to gather support for youth in our community. Highlights include:

  • 8 Core Training Events recruiting 55 new volunteers to represent 131 new kiddos in dependency
  • "Friends of CASA Golf Tournament" to support training and gaps in direct services to youth
  • "Rock 'n' Roll Bike Show" with Roughnecks Motorcycle Club Victim Support Group
  • "Kicks for Kids" Shoe Drive (gathered over 200 pairs of shoes--one for each child in foster care in the County)
  • Winter Coat Drive by Knights of Columbus
  • 19 In-Service Events for Volunteer Support and retention including Book Club, Brown-bag Lunches, and regional trainings
  • Various public appearances

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Juvenile and Family Services
1912 West 18th Street
Port Angeles, WA 98363
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