What is CASA? The Court Appointed Special Advocate Story
In 1977, concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children’s lives without sufficient information, a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court.
So successful was this Seattle program that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of the CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Today, more than 900 CASA programs are in operation across the country, with over 50,000 women and men serving as CASA volunteers. CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate.
For more about CASA of Montana's story, see the "CASA Montana" article (PDF) excerpted from the Fall 2009 Prevention Connection newsletter.
What is a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to speak out for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes through no fault of their own. These children are usually in temporary foster care and group homes. The CASA is often the only constant in the lives of such children.
Court appointed special advocates (CASA’s) are community volunteers trained by local program directors to speak up for abused and neglected children in court. With the information provided by the CASA volunteers, judges are able to make more informed decisions as to what is best for the child. These volunteers are often appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) for a child.
CASA/GAL volunteers review records, gather information, and talk to everyone involved; parents, teachers, foster parents, therapists, and the child. From this information, they present recommendations to the judge as to what is best for the child.
CASA’s Mission in Montana
CASA of Montana, together with local programs, supports and promotes court appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children so they can thrive in safe, permanent homes.
Our 15 local non-profit groups work together for the welfare of Montana’s children, providing them with a voice, a hope, and a future. These programs provide trained volunteers as advocates to children in some 60 percent of the abuse/neglect cases throughout the state. These local programs service 40 counties and provide more than 500 trained volunteers. In 2009 these volunteers served over 30,000 hours on behalf of more than 1,000 children.