History of CASA

AdvocateCampaignThe first Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program started in 1977, by a Judge named David Soukup in Seattle, Washington.  He realized that he was making far-reaching decisions about the lives of children without hearing from the unique perspective of the child.  He began looking for an alternative to relying solely on the lawyers for the child, who were not only overworked but also not specially trained for dealing with children, and the overburdened social workers assigned to their cases that have too many cases to handle.  Judge Soukup decided to train volunteers from the community to independently investigate the cases and make recommendations about what was in the best interest of the child.

“As a judge, I had to make tough decisions. I had to decide whether to take a child from the only home he’s ever known or leave him somewhere he might possibly be abused. I needed someone who could tell me what was best for that child– from the child’s viewpoint. That’s what CASA does.”
CASA Founder Honorable David Soukup

News of the success of Judge Soukup’s experiment spread like wildfire CASA became a national organization in 1982.  Currently, there are over 1,000 local CASA programs over 70,000 CASA volunteers throughout the United States.

CASA for Children of Bergen County

Judge Ellen Koblitz, Presiding Judge of Bergen County’s Family Court, contacted the state CASA Association (CASA of NJ) in the spring of 2002. She recognized the enormous need for a CASA program to begin in Bergen County as soon as possible. After conducting community outreach in Bergen County, CASA of NJ held a series of informational meetings with the goal of recruiting a steering committee to develop a CASA program that would serve Bergen County’s most vulnerable children. That steering committee transformed into a founding board for CASA for Children of Bergen County in the spring of 2003.

In Bergen County alone there are approximately 250 children annually who have to reside in foster homes, group homes, or residential facilities. These children come from every town in Bergen County and span across every race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. These children have found themselves taken away from the only parents they have ever known, and many times have been separated from their siblings, and almost always find themselves in a new town, and attending a new school.

CASA recruits, trains, and then supervises community volunteers to advocate for children who are involved with the child welfare and family court systems. All of the children served by CASA have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect and are between the ages of birth to twenty-one. CASA for Children of Bergen County’s goal is to move these children towards safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible.