In 1977, out of a dire need to have more information about the children appearing before him, Juvenile Court Judge David Soukup created Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Seattle, Washington. Our program, founded in 1981 through the leadership of Judge Richard Patsey as Court Appointed Special Representatives (CASR) of Contra Costa County, was one of the first four CASA organizations. CASR became Court Appointed Special Advocates of Contra Costa County in 2001. Today there are close to 950 CASA programs nationwide.
We are an independent, 501(c)(3) community-benefit organization, but we operate under the authority of and according to guidelines established by the Judicial Council, as outlined in the California State Welfare and Institutions Code and in the California Rules of Court. We are a member of both, the National and California CASA Associations.
For many years, CASA had been serving 140 to 155 children a year, which is only about 15% of the 1,200 children in foster care in Contra Costa County. Due to the exceptional outcomes for CASA youth the CASA Board of Directors felt it was their responsibility to ensure that the organization served more foster youth. In 2016 the CASA Board of Directors undertook an ambitious five year plan to increase the number of abused and neglected children served by the organization to 400 a year. This would allow the organization to serve almost 40% of the children in foster care in Contra Costa County by 2021. In addition, the Board adopted a diversity plan to ensure the gender and racial/ethnic backgrounds of the volunteers more closely match the children and youth that the organization serves.
In the first year of the expansion, fiscal year 2016-17, CASA served 173 youth, which was a 20% increase from the previous year. In the second year of the expansion, we served 200 children, a 16% increase from the previous year. In the third year of the expansion we plan to serve 285 foster youth. For 37 years, through their service and commitment, volunteers trained by CASA of Contra Costa County have helped to restore hope in the lives of children and youth who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned. Our volunteers demonstrate time and time again that one person can truly make a difference.