Deeply concerned for the welfare of children brought before him in dependency cases (foster care), Judge David Soukup (ret.) of Seattle wanted to hear each child’s story. He decided to ask community volunteers to get involved, get to know these vulnerable children and then report to him about each child’s welfare and best interests. These community volunteers became known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) and the concept swept the nation to add support for children who are wards of the state.
The CASA Concept
Nationally, CASAs are generally appointed in dependency cases (foster care). Here in King County, CASAs may also be appointed in high conflict custody cases (family law); a separate independent program. In family law custody cases, children do not receive a case manager or social worker and families do not receive therapeutic services through the state. Even though these children are not in foster care, allegations in family law custody cases can include serious risks to the children such as family violence, substance abuse, alcoholism, criminal activity, mental illness and neglect. These cases illuminated a frightening gap in services where children at significant risk are left with no service or program to promote their safety. Following Judge Soukup’s idea, the CASA program in King County for children in dependency (foster care) cases was expanded to serve a limited number of family law custody cases in the 1980’s and was led by Program Director, Pat Dixon. These programs were offered and funded through the King County Superior Court for a period of time.
When the court experienced drastic budget cuts in the late 1990’s, the CASA program was cut back to its original mandate to serve children in dependency cases (foster care). But a small group of visionaries took action and founded the first independent, private, non profit Family Law CASA program in the nation. Thanks to this small group of people, Family Law CASA has provided an advocate for over 2000 children in high risk family law custody cases.
On behalf of the children, we are deeply grateful for the vision and hard work of Caroline Davis, Founding Executive Director; Elizabeth Park, Founding Board President, and Founding Board Members Leslie Byrnes, Mabry DeBuys, Alden Garrett, Edward Greenleaf, Dr. Wendy Hutchins-Cook, Hon. Larry Jordan, Ret., Patsy Pattison and Linda Walker.