The act of giving: helping children in need

Adam Galliano, Staff Writer

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“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future,” according to John F. Kennedy. One organization that values children and their future success is CASA.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (or CASA for short) Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) works in conjunction with judicial and social services systems. It is “the only program where everyday citizens are appointed by judges to speak up for a child’s safety and well-being” (CASA, 2019).

The basic premise of CASA/ GAL is to provide guidance and support for children who have been placed in the foster care system due to neglect, abuse and trauma. The system was enacted to provide these children with a safe and secure environment, permanent housing and the support help these children to thrive.

CASA was first dreamed up and formed in 1976 when a Seattle, Wash., juvenile court judge named David W. Soukup was presiding over a court case where a young girl, 3, had experienced terrible abuse and whose future was being decided within the courtroom. The child was provided with a court appointed attorney but did not have any sort of familial or emotionally substantive adult present to speak up on her behalf and help discuss what the best interests of the child would be.

Judge Soukup concluded that he did not have sufficient evidence to rule on such a major life-changing decision. He felt it was a much too common event that prompted him to develop and institute a new system to help alleviate these advocacy issues and give children the assistance and aid they desperately needed.

In his own words, Judge Soukup shared his vested interest clearly, stating “It terrified me to make decisions about kids when I didn’t have anybody there.” He spearheaded CASA as one of the most important and successful child welfare assistance services in the nation. In Idaho alone, CASA programs have provided life-changing assistance to over 2600 children in child protection cases with the help of 395 active volunteers in 44 counties served by local programs.

The U.S. child welfare system has been overwhelmed by increases in drug abuse, physical abuse, custody issues and court costs, all things that can take precedence over the child. CASA can help alleviate those factors pressing on welfare and court systems. Currently there are more than 440,000 children in foster care, and on average, many of these children spend over a year in care. These experiences can be traumatic, but with CASA intervention, volunteers can step in and provide support for those who cannot support themselves.

CASA volunteers are screened, trained and supported by CASA/GAL program staff. And each volunteer is appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court. These accepted volunteers can assist judges in developing a fuller picture about the lifestyle and living situations of each individual child. These reports can enable judges to decide and act accordingly to ensure that a child who is in the care of the state is safe and secure, giving children the best opportunities to succeed.

CASA actively seeks volunteers who will become the active voice for children in need and help in the process of placing children in the best possible circumstances. Becoming a volunteer take a great deal of commitment. From fundraising opportunities and workshops to localized events and activities, there are many ways in which people can contribute to CASA/GAL. The organization also accepts and promotes financial donations and corporate assistance.

For more information on CASA, visit