A Voice For CHILDREN!
The Dependency Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program was created in 1976 by King County Superior Court Presiding Judge David W. Soukup. Judge Soukup was concerned about making life altering decisions on cases of abused and neglected children without sufficient information. Judge Soukup conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. This program was the first of its kind and serves as a nation-wide model for child abuse advocacy.
Cowlitz County CASA is a 501(3)(c) non-profit that supports volunteer advocates that give a voice to the abused and neglected children in our county dependency court system. We have been passionately advocating for our community children since 1994. Although every dependent child in Cowlitz County is assigned to our program, most of our children do not have the support of a CASA volunteer because we do not have enough advocates in our program. The children without a volunteer are monitored by staff, but with large caseloads we cannot provide the level of understanding and advocacy for those children. Volunteers ensure these children get the personalized attention they need and deserve during this confusing time in their lives.
Once entering care, the average child will wait two years before they are granted the sense of permanency that comes with a case being dismissed. Currently, about half of our children that leave care are adopted into new families and 40% are reunified with parents that have worked hard to earn return of their children. On average, children working with a CASA volunteer spend 7.5 months less in foster care, have their adoptions finalized 5 months faster, and are 50% less likely to re-enter state care than a child without an advocate.
Our advocates focus on identifying and advocating for the best interests of their individual child or family group to secure for each of them their best possible futures in stable and healthy homes, free from violence, abuse, and neglect. CASA volunteers are free to talk to their children’s teachers, social workers, medical and mental health providers, parents, placement, and other connections to build a deep understanding of their child’s life and needs. This relationship gives CASA volunteers the ability to ensure their children do not slip through the cracks of an overburdened system. One of the most rewarding parts of being an advocate is the opportunity to participate in the life of a child as they HEAL and SUCCEED while progressing towards permanency.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. No special skills are required, we offer extensive training, ongoing learning opportunities, and constant support for our volunteer advocates. We have several couples that advocate as a team, which offers a wonderful opportunity to spend time with a friend while changing the life of a child in our community.