In 1977, a Seattle Superior Court Judge named David Soukup was concerned about trying to make decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children without enough information. He conceived the idea of appointing community volunteers to speak up for the best interests of these children in court. He made a request for volunteers; 50 citizens responded, and that was the start of the CASA movement.
Today, there are more than 50,000 advocates serving in more than 940 state and local program offices nationwide. CASA programs across the country are known by several different names, including Guardian ad Litem, Child Advocates and Voices for Children.
Since the inception of CASA advocacy, volunteers have helped well over 1,000,000 children find safe, permanent homes in which they can thrive.
Locally - CASA of Northwest Arkansas opened its doors in 1997. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and are governed by a board of directors.
The Arkansas State CASA Association
The first CASA program in Arkansas started under a different name and in a different format in 1987 in Pulaski County. From 1987 to 1997 programs started slowly, with only minimal coordination or communication.
1987 Pulaski County (Little Rock)
1994 CASA of the 13th Judicial District (Camden)
1994 CASA of the 16th Judicial District (Batesville)
1994 CASA of the 2nd Judicial District (Jonesboro)
1995 CASA of Northeast Texas (Texarkana)
1997 CASA of Northwest Arkansas (Springdale)
In 1997, the Arkansas Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Foster Care and Adoption identified quality representation for children as one of the key needs for children in Arkansas. The state CASA office was created and the CASA volunteers role was written into law in Arkansas (9-27-316). The state office was housed in the Administrative Office of the Courts and the first state director was hired. Programs starting under this time were:
February 1999 Garland County CASA (Hot Springs)
CASA of Saline County (Benton)
In July 1999, the state CASA office received funding for grants to local CASA programs, enabling more programs to begin and stabilizing funding for existing programs. The following programs have started since then:
October 1999 Voices for Children (Pine Bluff)
January 2000 CASA of Sebastian County (Ft. Smith)
April 2000 CASA of the 3rd Judicial District (Ash Flat)
CASA of the 5th Judicial District (Russellville)
July 2000 CASA of White County (Searcy)
CASA of Lonoke County (Lonoke)
CASA of Clark County (Arkadelphia)
August 2000 CASA of the 14th Judicial District (Harrison)
November 2000 CASA of Faulkner County (Conway)
February 2001 CASA of Crawford County (Van Buren)
August 2001 CASA of the 10th Judicial District (Monticello)
There are many reasons for the extraordinary growth of CASA representation in Arkansas. Juvenile Judges have talked to their colleagues about the value of trained CASA volunteers in their courtrooms. Planning teams and boards of directors put countless hours into planning and direction. Our program staff are dedicated to volunteers and to providing advocates for children. Most importantly, hundreds of individuals in Arkansas have chosen to advocate for abused and neglected children.