The mission of Dauphin County Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”) is to recruit, train, educate, and supervise dedicated volunteers to become agents of change for every abused and neglected child from Dauphin County.
Through investigating, listening, and involvement in the courtroom as well as the child’s community, a CASA will assist our children to achieve their full potential.
We envision that every child in Dauphin County has a safe, stable, and nurturing home dedicated to a promising future.
In 2016, the Honorable Richard A. Lewis, then-President Judge of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, wrote a letter of support for the formation of a local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program here in Dauphin County. At that time, the Honorable Judge John F. Cherry also gave his blessing, presiding over Dependency Court. The following year, a statement of intent to begin the Dauphin County CASA program was submitted by the Steering Committee Chair to the National CASA organization for the establishment of our local program.
By 2018, the Dauphin County CASA Board of Directors was chosen. We reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the County, Children & Youth Services, and the Court as to how the program would operate. Our organization was granted a tax-exempt non-profit, public charity under 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations are tax-deductible. That next year, enough funds were raised to hire an Executive Director.
Since 2019, Dauphin County CASA has trained eight classes of volunteers, totalling over 40 individuals, who have been appointed to cases that impacted the lives of children in the foster care system. Their work has made difference in the lives of over 50 children through familiy reunification, adoption, and sustained education.
The Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocates Association (PA CASA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to grow, strengthen, and unite local CASA programs so they can ensure the safety, well-being, and forever home for every abused and/or neglected child in Pennsylvania. To fulfill its mission, PA CASA supports the existing network of local CASA programs, builds new CASA programs and secures resources critical to CASA’s mission. Currently, PA CASA provides training, technical assistance, and continuous quality improvement services to the 21 local CASA programs serving 27 counties. In the remaining 40 counties, PA CASA actively pursues program development. Through statewide advocacy, PA CASA provides resources that make it easier for CASA programs to serve children. PA CASA’s vision is for every abused and/or neglected child in Pennsylvania to have access to the service and support of a CASA volunteer.
For additional information, please refer to the PA CASA website.
Judge Soukup, a Juvenile Court Judge, watched as many parties entered and exited the juvenile dependency courtroom, but he never heard anyone speak strictly on behalf of the child. Inspiration came when Judge Soukup had insufficient information to make a life-changing decision for a 3-year-old girl who had suffered from child abuse. Judge Soukup’s idea of training volunteers to speak up in the courtroom on behalf of a child’s best interests came to fruition in 1977. The first CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program was established in Seattle (King County), Washington, and was endorsed as a model for safeguarding a child’s rights to a safe and permanent family by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. As the program model continued to grow and develop in other states, the National CASA Association was formed in Seattle in 1984. Currently, there are nearly 1,000 CASA programs throughout the United States. The CASA/GAL network has reached over 2 million children since National CASA/GAL’s inception.
The National CASA/GAL Association, together with state and local member programs, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive.
For additional information, please refer to the National CASA/GAL website.