Judge David Soukup
National CASA History
In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, saw a recurring problem in his courtroom:
In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, you walked out of the courthouse at the end of the day and you said, 'I've done my best; I can live with this decision,' he explains.
"But when you're involved with a child and you're trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child's growth into a mature and happy adult, you don't feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision. You can't walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o'clock. You wonder, 'Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?'"
To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, the Seattle judge came up with an idea that would change America's judicial procedure and the lives of thousands of children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.
This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977. During that first year, the program provided 110 trained CASA volunteers for 498 children in 376 dependency cases.
CASA of Trinity Valley was established in November 1994 under the direction of 173rd District Judge Jack Holland, in an effort to address the needs of abused children in the courts of Henderson County, Texas. Since this time, our CASA program has grown tremendously.
We expanded into Anderson County in 1998 and into Cherokee County in 2002 and changed our name to CASA of Trinity Valley. Program growth has occurred due to the increase in the number of victims of child abuse and neglect in our three-county area needing advocacy services. We serve 12 courts and over 900 children per year and are ranked just below the major cities of Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Fort Worth at 6th in the state according to number of children served annually. We have also gained the status of being Guardian ad Litem rather than volunteer advocate due to the level of advocacy we provide to the children.
Last year alone, we were successful in achieving permanent safe homes for over 390 children. Since January 2000, we have served over 4,400 children and achieved safe, permanent homes for 3,989 children. We have a board of directors which consists of members from each county. In 2010 we embarked on a capacity building campaign to increase our recruitment of volunteers and awareness of CASA along with the plight of children in the foster care system. We now have offices in all three counties that are fully furnished and staffed.
We are grateful that our board, staff, volunteers and community had the insight and courage to answer the call for these child victims. We have in response also restructured our staff hierarchy so that direct services to victims is paramount. Our staff consists of the Executive Director, Program Director, 9 Casework Supervisors, 1 Casework Supervisor/Trainer and a part-time Resource Development Officer. To say the least, we are intense and victim focused.