In 1977, the concept of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program was introduced in Seattle, Washington. Seattle Juvenile Court Judge David W. Soukup realized that children who entered the legal system due to abuse or neglect in their own homes were often inadvertently re-victimized by courts and public social service agencies who were over-burdened, understaffed and woefully lacking in resources. Lawyers typically represented the interests of the parents and the state. Seldom did someone speak exclusively for the child, the party who arguably had the most at stake in the proceeding. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act enacted in 1974 prompted states to adopt legislation that provided representation for the child's best interests during judicial proceedings, and attorney guardians ad litem generally did not have the time, training nor resources to conduct the kind of in-depth fact-finding needed to represent the best long term interests of children.
Once Judge Soukup recognized the problem, he looked to community volunteers for a solution. He personally recruited and trained volunteers to serve as guardians ad litem for children who entered the child welfare system.
The idea caught the attention and approval of the Children in Placement Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and in 1978 the Committee adopted the model that came to be known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Indiana law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a trained court appointed special advocate in abuse and neglect cases. Moreover, if a child becomes the subject of a petition to terminate the parent/child relationship and the parent objects, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem or CASA for the child. In addition to the abuse and neglect cases, Indiana law allows for and Indiana courts are now frequently appointing CASA volunteers in custody and paternity cases. Although of the number of volunteers who provide an invaluable service to Indiana trial courts is remarkable, the need for more volunteers is ongoing.
For more information regarding the opportunity to serve as a volunteer CASA or Guardian ad Litem, contact the Indiana Office of Court Services.