History of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

In 1974, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) mandated the appointment of a guardian ad litem in child abuse and neglect cases; it was no longer up to the judge’s discretion.

Judge David Soukup (Juvenile Court, King County, and Seattle, Washington) was dissatisfied with the same case plans and same recommendations for child after child; he believed more individualized attention would produce better outcomes. Judge Soukup solicited ideas for system improvement from court staff. Out of these ideas evolved the idea for community volunteers to act as child advocates.

The Volunteer Guardian ad litem Program began in King County in 1977. The guardian ad litem did not have to be an attorney. The program recruited volunteers from the community and provided training and support. Similar programs were developed in other states/localities as judges spread word of the concept.

The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA) was created in 1982 to support volunteer child advocate programs and increase the number of volunteer child advocates nationwide.

Hallmarks of a CASA/GAL volunteer program include:

  • Advocacy for abused and neglected children in court
  • Volunteers who are recruited, screened, trained, supervised, and supported
  • Adherence to national standards

National CASA Mission

The National CASA Association, together with its state and local members, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so that they can thrive in safe, permanent homes.

National CASA standards describe the major criteria the CASA/GAL volunteer must meet. The following statements describe the CASA/GAL volunteer:

  • An individual who has been screened and trained by the CASA/GAL program and appointed by the court to advocate for children who come into the court system primarily as a result of alleged abuse or neglect.
  • An individual who respects a child’s inherent right to grow up with dignity in a safe environment that meets that child’s best interests.
  • An individual who assures that the child’s best interests are represented in the court at every stage of the case.