National CASA Movement – How it all began
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 courthouse at the end of the day and you said, ‘I’ve done my best; I can live with this decision.‘ 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? Is this really right?”
To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, Judge Soukup came up with an idea that would change America’s judicial procedure and the lives of almost a million children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.
This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977.
By 1982, it was clear that a national association was needed to direct CASA’s emerging national presence, and the National CASA Association was formed in Seattle.
On April 22, 1985, President Ronald Reagan presented the National CASA Association with the President’s Volunteer Action Award for “outstanding volunteer contribution, demonstrating accomplishment through voluntary action.”
In August of 1989, the American Bar Association, the country’s largest professional organization of attorneys, officially endorsed the use of CASA volunteers to work with attorneys to speak for abused and neglected children in court.
The U.S. Congress authorized the expansion of CASA with the passage of the “Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990” so that a “Court Appointed Special Advocate shall be available to every victim of child abuse or neglect in the United States that needs such an advocate.”
Today, the National CASA Association represents over 90 local CASA programs across the country, including Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It provides support for new programs, technical assistance, training, and fundraising, media, and public awareness services.
Currently, over 70,000 volunteers serve approximately 280,000 children each year.
CASA Lee/Carroll/Ogle Counties – Celebrating our 25th Anniversary
In the Spring of 1988, with the support of the Honorable Judge Thomas Hornsby, the Lee County Juvenile Court and a handful of dedicated volunteers, worked together to create Lee County CASA. It was on September 13, 1988 that Lee County CASA was officially incorporated.
In June 1994, the Lee County program received an expansion grant from the National CASA Association to establish a branch office in Carroll County to provide advocacy services to children in that area. The program’s name was changed to Lee/Carroll County CASA to reflect the expanded area.
In October 2006, CASA Lee/Carroll expanded into Ogle County, resulting in restructuring our program as CASA-15th Judicial Circuit Lee/Carroll/Ogle Counties.
In 2003, the Lee County Program celebrated our 15 Year Anniversary of serving abused and neglected children in Lee County thanks to the thousands of hours contributed by dedicated CASA volunteers.
In 2013, 15th Judicial Circuit CASA (formerly Lee County CASA) is celebrating 25 years providing services to abused and neglected children in our expanded three county area.
During the last twenty-five years, we have experienced considerable growth in our volunteer base. This has allowed us to increase the number of children who have achieved safety and permanency through the efforts of our volunteers. As we look to the future and our renewed commitment in serving the abused and neglected children in our communities, our efforts will focus on recruiting and expanding our volunteer program. We remain committed to achieving our GOAL of providing « a powerful voice in court » for every abused and neglected child in our communities.