CASA Program Manager
History of the CASA Program
In 1977, an estimated 600,000 children in the United States were in foster care with little hope of being reunited with their original families or being freed for adoption to become part of new families. Unfortunately, most of these children were being damaged by an unstructured system, which often replace parental neglect with institutional neglect. Judge David Soukup, then a Superior Court Judge in King County, Washington, directed Carmen Ray-Bettineski of his staff in Seattle to develop a program of volunteer guardians ad litem in an effort to provide better advocacy for abused and neglected children. It was Judge Soukup’s intention to provide an opportunity for selected and trained citizens to advocate for abused and neglected children in Juvenile Court proceedings. He envisioned that the trained volunteers would focus their time and energies on the best interests of a specific child and report their independent findings to the Court. Judge Soukup wanted to ensure that the court would have confidential “eyes and ears” for each child to help avoid the damaging effects of “foster care drift.”
The program which began in King County with 100 volunteers was so successful that the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recognized King County’s format as a national model. The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) was coined in 1979 by the Children in Placement Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). CASA identifies a volunteer who is directly involved in courtroom advocacy for abused and neglected children in Juvenile Court proceedings.
As other court jurisdictions throughout the country began to adopt the King County model, a National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association was formed in 1981; Carmen Ray-Bettineski served as its first president. There are now 642 CASA programs in 50 states and in the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands with approximately 38,000 CASA volunteers in these programs. In 1996, CASA volunteers spoke for an estimated 129,000 abused and neglected children in court proceedings. It is the goal of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association to have a child advocate for every alleged abused or neglected child in the United States.
The Pend Oreille CASA Program began in August 1998 in Newport, Washington. In January 2000, Pend Oreille CASA-GAL expanded into Stevens County. Then with the concept of expanding the program into Ferry County, the program was renamed TriCounty CASA. The Ferry County office was opened in March of 2002, completing the circle for the TriCounty CASA/GAL Program. In 2003, due to funding concerns, the Tri County CASA Program split off to individual county CASA programs.
WHAT IS CASA?
Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem in Juvenile Court is a trained volunteer appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of a child alleged or found to be dependent. By Washington state law, guardian ad litem programs are court-authorized and established by the Superior Court to manage all aspects of volunteer guardian ad litem representation, including recruitment, screening, training, supervision, assignment and discharge of volunteers.
Under Washington State law, the guardian ad litem’s duties are to represent and be an advocate for the best interests of the child, collect relevant information about the child’s situation, monitor all court orders for compliance and bring to the court’s attention any change in circumstances that may require a modification of the court’s order, and report information to the court concerning the legal status of a child’s membership in any Indian tribe or band. The guardian ad litem is considered an officer of the court for the purpose of immunity from civil liability.
The CASA/guardian ad litem is a party to the proceeding as a physical and actual symbol of the child’s best interests. As a party, the guardian ad litem is entitled to have legal counsel, present evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and be present at all hearings. In addition, the guardian ad litem receives copies of all documents filed with the court by any party, receives notice of all hearings, and signs court orders before they are presented to the judicial officer.
The Mission of Ferry County CASA is:
- To serve as a volunteer advocacy program consisting of individuals who are concerned with the best interest of abused and/or neglected children.
- To offer our volunteers quality training as a means to advocate more efficiently in court for abused and/or neglected children.
- To offer members of our community a vehicle in which to become a part of the solution to child abuse and/or neglect.