In 1977, Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup was concerned about trying to make decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children with very limited information. He conceived the idea of appointing community volunteers to speak up for the best interests of these children in court. He made a request for volunteers; 50 citizens responded, and that was the start of the CASA movement. The first CASA program in Maryland started in 1987 and, since then, fourteen additional programs have started. Maryland CASA Association was incorporated in 1997 as a private, nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, to advance the individual efforts of the local CASA programs, help to start new CASA programs where needed, and serve more of the state’s abused and neglected children. Maryland CASA officially opened its doors in 1998 and has helped to start seven new CASA programs throughout the state, expanding the number of counties served by CASA to twenty. Today, Maryland CASA continues its efforts to expand CASA’s reach to the remaining four counties in the state.
A CASA volunteer is a court appointed, trained, and committed adult who will represent and advocate for a child’s best interest in the child protection system. CASA volunteers are 21 years and older and will go through careful screening and receive 30-40 hours of training before being assigned to children. The primary responsibility is to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the court, getting to know the child while gathering information from the child’s family, foster parents, teachers, counselors, etc. and making recommendations to help the judge decide what is best for the child. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life and share a commitment to improving children’s lives. For children who have been abused or neglected, having a CASA means being a priority instead of feeling invisible. For volunteers, being a CASA is a life-changing experience that makes our communities a better place. CASA trainings happen in all surrounding counties in Maryland. Volunteers may choose where they wish to attend. Volunteers willing to work with older foster children are especially needed.