CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. We are a national organization of volunteers that judges appoint to speak for the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children. The volunteer status of the CASAs ensures that the children’s well-being remains the sole objective of the CASAs.
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 courtroom 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 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, Seattle Judge Soukap 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 in the courtroom on behalf of the children: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers. To-date, there are over 950 CASA programs nationwide and over 90,000 CASA volunteers.
The first CASA program in Texas began in Dallas in 1979. Texas CASA, which was formed in 1989, serves the 72 local CASA programs currently operating statewide by providing funding, training, technical assistance, coordination for program expansion and development, advocacy, and tools and strategies for raising public awareness of child abuse and the need for volunteer advocates. In a 2008 Judicial Survey, 97% of Texas judges responding reported that the information CASA provides is beneficial to their decision making and 94% said that CASA volunteers provided an opportunity for better, more positive outcomes for children.