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The Judges' Page newsletter is published by the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

The Vital Role of CASA/GAL Volunteers: Impacting Outcomes for Children and Youth

judge j. dean lewisSpring 2016

J. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Trustees
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

As Juvenile and Family Court Judges, we have all been challenged by heavy dockets, limited resources, and scarce information to inform us about the issues on which we must make critical decisions. In 1977, Judge David Soukup in King County (Seattle), WA established the first CASA program. The program was established to provide court-based advocacy for abused and neglected children through the use of trained and supervised community volunteers. The CASA model spread quickly as judges and communities around the nation learned from the Seattle area program. The National CASA Association was founded in 1982.

Judges serving on the dependency court bench today face the same problems that Judge Soukup faced nearly 40 years ago. But the difference is that many courts now have CASA/GAL programs. The organization has grown to 949 programs with more than 76,000 volunteers serving over 251,000 abused and neglected children annually. If you do not have a CASA/GAL program in your community, contact the National CASA Association.

The National CASA Association, together with its state and local member programs, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive. The organization strives to provide abused and neglected children with the best possible advocacy. Programs are governed by the National CASA Association’s Standards for Local CASA/GAL Programs and are evaluated as to compliance and quality assurance on a regular basis. Volunteers are trained and monitored based upon the requirements of standards.

As a Juvenile and Family Court Judge you can be assured that there are both short term and long term benefits for children and youth by having a CASA/GAL program available in your court. The articles in this issue will assist you in understanding how vital the role of the CASA/GAL volunteer is in achieving successful outcomes for these children and youth.

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Articles in This Issue

Tara Perry, CEO of the National CASA Association, shares the organization’s vision for abused and neglected children and the important role each stakeholder in the dependency court plays.

The Roles and Responsibilities of the CASA/GAL Volunteer From a Judicial Perspective explains that the National CASA Association has established standards defining the roles and responsibilities of the CASA/GAL volunteer. Judges from across the country share their expectations for quality advocacy and how the CASA/GAL volunteers meet and exceed those standards.

Judge Darlene Byrne of Travis County, Texas is the 2015 National CASA Association Judge of the Year. She explains how CASA volunteers promote the best interest of children involved in her court and how the CASA program is an active partner in court and community initiatives.

Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.) of California challenges judges to exercise judicial leadership to start and support CASA programs so that children in dependency court can achieve improved outcomes.

Judge Fernando Macias, District Court Judge in Dona Ana, New Mexico shares the importance of the role of CASA volunteers in helping children face the challenges of the dependency court proceedings.

Sam Herod of Los Angeles, California is the 2015 National CASA Association Volunteer of the Year. He describes how fulfilling his role as a CASA volunteer helps the dependency court judges make informed decisions.

Allison Gilbreath of Richmond, Virginia is a former foster youth and a current CASA volunteer. She shares her personal journey and why CASA volunteers are so important for children and families involved in the dependency court system.

Janet Ward, Director of State Support, National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association, shares the long-term value to children and youth of having a CASA/GAL volunteer advocate in the dependency court. 

National CASA staff report on how National CASA and DC metro area CASA programs teamed up to make this year’s briefing on Capitol Hill a success.

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If an article published in The Judges' Page is reproduced, credit shall be given to the author(s) of the article, the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.


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