THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHILD ABUSE ADVOCACY MOVEMENT
Across the Nation
The national movement to have the independent voice of child victims heard in court began in the 1960s. Judges realized they were making far-reaching decisions about the lives of children without hearing the unique perspective of the child. Some judges asked social workers or friends to informally investigate child abuse cases and make recommendations about what would best serve the needs and interests of the child. The first volunteer guardian ad litem (GAL) program serving abused and neglected children was organized by King County Judge David Soukup in 1977 in Seattle, Washington. In the following years, word of the success of the King County program spread like wildfire, and similar programs began all over the United States. Because some state statutes require the guardian ad litem to be an attorney, the term Court Appointed Special Advocate—CASA—was coined to describe volunteers from the local community trained to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court proceedings.
In 1982, the National CASA Association, Inc., was established to serve as an umbrella organization for the growing number of programs in the country. National CASA provides information, technical assistance, research, and training. National CASA also sponsors an annual national conference and has a grants program that annually awards millions of dollars to state and local CASA and guardian ad litem programs. Membership in National CASA is open to both individuals and programs.
Closer to Home
In Monroe County, the CASA program was established in 1983 through the efforts of 13 local individuals. The program was launched with a seed grant from the American Bar Association/Indiana Law and Child Protection Project, and in-kind contributions of goods and services from Family Service Association, Legal Services Organization, private attorneys, the South Central Community Mental Health Center, and the City of Bloomington.
The first full year of program operation was 1984. The first training class was held in January of that year and, by the end of the year, the program served 10 cases involving 14 children. In 1989 and 1990 the number of cases handled by the program took a significant jump. Currently, the CASA program serves 100-110 cases at any one time, and the length of CASA involvement in a case varies.
Day-to-day operations are handled by the director and 11 staff members. We have over 100 active volunteers. In 2019 we served more than 500 abused and neglected children in Monroe County. Our CASA program is highly respected in the community and state for its professionalism and the dedication of our volunteers.