State & Local Programs

Understanding National CASA's Urban Initiative 

What is the goal of National CASA’s Urban Initiative?

The intent of the Urban Initiative (UI) is to provide specialized training to meet the challenges unique to the largest programs in the CASA/GAL network—especially those serving a substantial number of children of color. Since its inception in 1999, the goal of the Urban Initiative has been to build capacity in those urban jurisdictions where more than 60% of the children involved in the child welfare system live.

Who are “The Urbans”?

Participation in the specialized Urban Initiative training is by invitation of National CASA. The number of programs is limited by financial constraints to approximately 30. Selection is based in part on program size and the racial/ethnic disproportionality of the children in need of service within a program’s jurisdiction. Major consideration is also given to whether a program exhibits a “track record” of growing its volunteer child advocacy services over time to meet the need.

What activities do Urban Initiative members participate in?

Various capacity-building techniques have been made available to Urban Initiative participants. These have included group trainings in 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2010; networking sessions at the annual National CASA Conference; capacity-focused mini-grants; cross-program mentoring; and an urban director listserv.

At the initial UI meeting in 1999, the participants identified the inherent value of utilizing “the wisdom in the room.” Consequently, all subsequent group training has been delivered by a combination of peers with expertise in specific areas and outside contractors with sophisticated approaches. The entire agenda is planned by a small committee of executive directors who volunteer to put it together. The committee is able to identify areas of need for urban directors as well as successful practitioners among their peers from whom they would like to learn. The planning effort and the meeting itself are facilitated by various National CASA staff.

Unfortunately, funding cutbacks at National CASA have limited our capacity to host another Urban Institute at this time. However, members of this group and staff members from other large programs who are interested get together every year at the National CASA conference. Participants share practice tips as part of a 90-minute facilitated networking session. Watch the conference program for details.


The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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