“CASA volunteers play a unique role on behalf of some of our most vulnerable children. Their commitment, vigilance and persistence offer hope where there has been little.”
– Marian Wright Edelman, Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund
History of the CASA movement, nationally and in Connecticut
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates—volunteers, who first began in this role in Seattle in the 1970s on behalf of children experiencing abuse or neglect. A juvenile court judge concerned about making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of training citizen volunteers to speak up for children.
Today, with national offices in Seattle and D.C., the CASA movement is a network with more than 900 affiliates across virtually every state. Each year, some 85,000 volunteers serve some 260,000 children.
Connecticut has a long, admirable history of providing children in the care of the State with attorney representation, and in many cases, Guardian Ad Litem advocates as well. However, as of 2019 only about 1 percent of the more than 4000 Connecticut children in foster care had dedicated CASA volunteers—prompting our action now. A CASA volunteer plays an integral role, in addition to the child's attorney, by providing consistent, personalized support for the child in ways that attorneys with busy caseloads cannot. Working in partnership with a child's attorney and social worker, a CASA is able to keep up with the child's day-to-day life and update the Court holistically on a child's well-being, toward better long-term outcomes for that child.
On June 10, 2016, the State enacted Public Act No. 16-210 (Bill 347) legally establishing a program for CASA volunteers in Connecticut’s courts for juvenile matters. This legislation created the opportunity for more of Connecticut’s most vulnerable children to have the benefit of a CASA volunteer.
Prior to the 2019 launch of CASA of Northern Connecticut and CASA of Southern Connecticut, only CASA of SW Connecticut (in Stamford/Fairfield County) was providing CASA services in our state.