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 its first Executive Director, Charles Lerner. Charles is a former foster youth, and adoptive parent, who came from CASA of Santa Cruz in California. He led the first LGBT foster to permanency program in the country and has spent 15 years in the child welfare field.
Since 2012, Boston CASA has grown exponentially. We have increased our staff from 1 to 9 members, tripled our volunteers, increased the number of children we annually serve by 175%, increased revenue by 600%, and begun partnering with the Attorney General’s office on an Older Youth Mentoring Initiative created to address how to best support older youth 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 abuse and neglect cases. CASAs represent the “best interest” of the children they work with and are most often 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 have a caring and consitent adult speaking up for them and making sure they are receiving the care they need and deserve. Read a few of our success stories here.
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.