History of CASA

York County CASA

In 1986, the Honorable Emanuel Cassimatis introduced the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) concept to York County (and Pennsylvania) by inviting community members and professionals interested in child welfare to join in establishing a task force to explore the possibility of a local CASA program. While there were CASA programs nationwide at that time, there were none in Pennsylvania.

The first group of York County CASA volunteers began training in the fall of 1987; the first case was assigned in January 1988. By 1996, the York County CASA program had become an established county agency. There are four full-time positions; CASA Coordinator, Assistant CASA Coordinator, Administrative Clerk, and Receptionist. CASA has full support of the Judges and the county commissioners.

Pennsylvania CASA Association

Pennsylvania currently has 19 programs serving 24 counties, 18 that operate as independent non-profit organizations, and three that are funded by their county governments. Ms. Jennifer DeBalko is the PA CASA Executive Director. Currently, the PA CASA Association continues to operate by a diverse funding stream that includes grant dollars from National CASA, as well as corporate sponsorships, fundraising events, and other grant opportunities.

On December 12, 1998, Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge signed into law an amendment to the Juvenile Act, which addressed the roles and responsibilities of a CASA volunteer. Volunteer standards were developed through the collaboration of local programs and the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission and were formally accepted by the commission in July of 1999.

For more information on the PA CASA Association, visit their website.

National CASA Association

In 1977, Seattle Judge David Soukup was concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children's lives without sufficient information. He conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak in court for the best interests of these children. This Seattle program was so successful that soon Judges across the country began utilizing Court Appointed Special Advocates.

In 2019, 948 programs were in operation in 49 states and the District of Columbia, with 96,929 volunteers serving 276,809 children. Those CASA volunteers contributed nearly 5.4 million hours of service. Since 2010, CASA volunteers have donated nearly 60 million hours advocating on behalf of children who have experienced abuse and or neglect. (CASA Annual Report 2019)

The National CASA Association provides leadership for CASA programs, along with: holding an annual conference, publishing a newsletter, and promoting CASA through public relations efforts. National CASA offers consultation and resources that help start CASA programs and provides vital assistance to established programs.

For more information on the National CASA Association, visit their website.