Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) began in 1977 when a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. From that first program has grown a network of nearly 1,000 CASA and guardian ad litem programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
Boston CASA, one of the nearly 1,000 programs nationwide, was created in 1982 and initially funded by the Suffolk County Juvenile Court. In January 2012, Boston CASA became an autonomous non-profit and hired it's first Executive Director, Charles Lerner. Charles is a former foster youth himself who speaks at national conferences and, at the request of the Statehouse, has presented to the Massachusetts legislature about the importance of services for foster children.
Since 2012, Boston CASA has grown exponentially. We have increased our staff from 1 to 5 members, tripled our volunteers, increased the number of children we annually serve by 105%, expanded our donor network, and begun working with the Attorney General's office on an Older Youth Mentoring Initiative partnership created to address how to best support teenagers aging out of the foster care system in Massachusetts.
Boston CASA advocates are appointed by juvenile court judges to be the eyes and ears of the court in complicated foster care cases. CASAs represent the “best interest” of the children they work with and are the only party involved in the case that does so. CASA volunteers work to be a unifying force on behalf of children – gathering information, communicating with all parties, and ensuring that children in foster care, who have often been exposed to horrific trauma, abuse, and neglect, have a caring adult speaking up for them and making sure they are getting the care they need and deserve. Read a few of our success stories here.
CASA volunteers are unique in their role and play a critical part in ensuring that children do not re-enter foster care and find permanency in their young lives. CASA volunteers stay with a child until the case is closed and the child is in a safe and permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives in which foster parents, social workers, lawyers, teachers and mental health providers can change frequently.
A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home; is half as likely to re-enter the foster care system; and is more likely to succeed in school. Read more about the evidence of effectiveness of a CASA in a child's life.
At Boston CASA, we believe that every child in foster care deserves the quality of care we expect for our own children, deserves a voice, and deserves a safe and permanent home.