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.
According to a large-scale study by the Brookings Institute (2012), there are three things that predict a person will not live in poverty, and will, in fact, join the middle class:
1. Earning a high school degree
2. Avoiding teen-age pregnancy
3. Having a full-time job after completing high school or college
If you drop out of school, become a teen-age parent, and are unable to work a full-time job, you have a 76% chance of living in poverty, but if you graduate from high school, avoid becoming a teen parent and have a full-time job you only have a two percent chance of living in poverty.
Since 52% of foster youth never graduate from high school or earn a GED, and 27% of foster youth in Contra Costa County have at least one child by the time they are 19, it seems unlikely that most of these youth would be able to find a full-time job due to lack of education and childcare costs. This means that at least 50% of our foster youth will end up living in poverty.
CASA's current programs address the primary causes of poverty. 100% of CASA youth graduate from high school or earn a GED. CASA volunteers carefully monitor reading progress in younger children, and secure IEPs as needed for all our children. Our reproductive health program provides education and access to reproductive health care, and our mental health program provides teletherapy for foster youth who do not qualify for services under Medi-Cal.
CASA provides a unique blend of evidence-based services and advocacy for foster youth. This population is in the pipeline for homelessness, prison and poverty, but we can interrupt this progression with programs that truly address their needs and prepare them to become successful adults. Over the last few years CASA has dramatically increased the number of foster youth served by our programs providing the support these youth need to succeed.