In 1976 Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup began to suspect that the children in legal disputes over which he presided were not being adequately represented. Unlike their parents and the government agencies involved, the kids had no voice in court. In cases of abuse and neglect or in bitter custody battles the real story often seemed to go untold or was drowned in the exchange of allegations. This kept the judge up nights wondering if he had made the right decisions.
Increasingly consumed by what he saw as the lack of sufficient information about children in these cases, Soukup put out a call for volunteers. He would enlist a few concerned citizens to be his eyes and ears, to advocate for kids who might otherwise fall through cracks in the overburdened legal system and make objective recommendations on their behalf. Word of the new initiative spread rapidly to other jurisdictions in other states as judges across the country began appointing citizen advocates to ensure the voices of children would be heard. In 1990 the United States Congress passed the Victims of Child Abuse Act which recognized the critical importance of child advocacy and encouraged the expansion of CASA programs.
Today CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) has grown into a network of more than 59,000 volunteers serving 954 program offices nationwide. Since its inception, volunteers have stood with and contended for well over two million kids, making CASA one of the most successful children’s programs in history. Each year state and local CASA organizations represent nearly a quarter of a million children who are caught up in the legal system.