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Court Appointed Special Advocates

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Court Appointed Special Advocates
TypeYouth organization
Legal statusNon-profit organization
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington
Region served
United States

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. CASA are volunteers from the community who complete training that has been provided by the state or local CASA office.[1] They are appointed by a judge, and their role is to gather information and make recommendations in the best interest of the child, keeping the child's personal wishes in mind.[2]

According to the National CASA Association, there are more than 93,000 volunteers nationwide, serving in 49 states and the District of Columbia. North Dakota is the only state without a CASA program.[3] Each year more than a quarter of a million children are assisted through CASA services.[1]


In 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.[4] Fifty volunteers responded to his idea, which started a movement to provide better representation for abused and neglected children throughout the United States.[5] By 2007, the National CASA Association had served 2 million children nationwide.[6]

Current situation[edit]

Since its founding, CASA programming has grown to cover 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.[3] Each state's program is responsible for developing and funding a budget.[7] 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 non-profit organizations, philanthropic corporations, and community action groups.[8]

CASA are generally appointed at the first hearing for the welfare of a child.[9] In some states, a child will be assigned a lawyer as guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child in court. The GAL can double as a CASA, and in some situations, a child will be assigned both a CASA and a GAL.[1]

There are over 400,000 children aged 0–21 in foster care in the US.[6]

The U.S. Department of Justice, the principal financial supporter of the National CASA/GAL Association, issued a "High Risk Letter" dated March 29, 2023, signaling a temporary suspension of funding. This communication followed a comprehensive joint review conducted in October 2022 by the department's juvenile justice and finance offices. The funding suspension arising from this determination has led to staff furloughs at the organization's three national offices located in Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Additionally, it has caused delays in the disbursement of pass-through grants to certain local CASA/GAL nonprofits and has contributed to escalating internal tensions within the organization.[10]


CASA are volunteers from the community who complete training that has been provided by the state or local CASA office.[11] The training consists of a minimum of 30 hours classroom instruction, court observation, and continued training each year.[12] CASA must also pass a criminal background check.[13] Each state develops its own program, implementing the national training and program standards. There are no educational requirements that CASA volunteers must meet, other than completing the training.[1]


A 2019 study commissioned by Texas CASA looking at the outcomes of 31,754 children found that children assigned a CASA in Texas were less likely to reach any type of permanency as a final case outcome. The study controlled for selection bias in previous studies whereby CASAs were appointed to the toughest cases. The study notes that its results are limited to the Texas programs and do not generalize to other states, did not confirm whether a CASA actually worked on each included case where a judge appointed one, and that it focused exclusively on legal permanency but not wellbeing or long-term effects.[14] One law review article has found "structural racism" in CASA programs whereby volunteers overwhelmingly come from white and middle class backgrounds but are sent to investigate families that are disproportionately nonwhite and poor.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "CASA History".
  2. ^ "The CASA/GAL Model". National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Programs". National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  4. ^ "History". National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  5. ^ "CASA History". www.ohiocasa.org. Archived from the original on May 5, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "CASA/GAL for Children". CASA/GAL for Children. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  7. ^ "State of the States: How State CASA Organizations Compare". May 5, 2008. National CASA Assiciation.
  8. ^ "Impact Partners". National CASA/GAL Association for Children. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  9. ^ Lawry, Mercedes (1997). Court Appointed Special Advocates  : A Voice for Abused and Neglected Children in Court. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  10. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael (November 17, 2023). "DOJ Freezes Funding for National Child Advocates Group". The Imprint. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  11. ^ "Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate". Kids Matter Inc. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  12. ^ "Volunteer". Central Georgia CASA. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  13. ^ "FAQs about becoming a CASA – California CASA Association". www.californiacasa.org. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  14. ^ Osborne, Cynthia (October 14, 2019). "The Effect of CASA on Child Welfare Permanency Outcomes". Child Maltreatment. 25 (23).
  15. ^ Urs, Tara (February 27, 2017). "However Kindly Intentioned: Structural Racism and Volunteer CASA Programs". CUNY Law Review.