Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
|Motto||"Lift up a child's voice AND I am for the child®"|
|Legal status||Non-profit organization|
|Purpose||"The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive."|
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.
In many jurisdictions, CASA are known as Guardians ad litem. In other jurisdictions, the CASA is a volunteer who need not be an attorney, whose role is to gather information and make recommendations to the judge, while the GAL is an attorney whose role is to represent the child's interests.
According to National CASA Association, today there are more than 70,000 advocates serving in nearly 1,000 state and local program offices nationwide. Because of these volunteers, each year nearly a quarter of a million children are assisted through CASA services.
During 1977, Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup was faced with making decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children with only the information provided by the state child protective services. Soukup formulated the idea that volunteers could be dedicated to a case and speak for children's best interests. Fifty volunteers responded to his idea, which started a movement that provides better representation for abused and neglected children throughout the country.
Since that time, CASA programming has grown to cover all U.S. states. Some state and local agencies receive government funding, while others do not. The National CASA agency relies on pass thru grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as well as partnerships with organizations like Jewelers for Children. National CASA then passes grant funding to state and local agencies. This state and local agency funding has constituted over $125 million since 1993.
According to CASA, the strategic objectives of the organization are listed as follows:
- Every court in the United States recognizes that a CASA/GAL volunteer is essential for a successful outcome for children
- Our volunteer base reflects the diversity and cultural makeup of children in the system
- Every potential donor understands the importance of our mission, and places it at the top of their priority list
- Every government official at the local, state, tribal and federal level understands the far-reaching results a CASA/GAL volunteer can achieve, and places our work at the top of their agenda
- Every child can thrive in the safe embrace of a loving family
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) can be found in cities all over the United States. Different locations vary on their training process but all advocates are properly trained to assess a familial situation, a child's opinion, and adequately represent children in court. Typical training consists of 30 hours spent in workshops and 10 hours spent in observing court cases and procedures. Each CASA location also has a volunteer coordinator along with the location overseer that are available for consultation and guidance on cases.