CASA of the Pikes Peak Region began in 1989, ten years after the Court Appointed Special Advocate movement was founded by Judge David Soukup in Washington.
In 1977, Judge David Soukup organized the first team of court appointed special advocates in King County, WA. We are pleased to share this piece written by Judge Soukup, originally published in the 30th Anniversary issue of National CASA’s The Connection magazine.
While sitting as a judge in juvenile court, I realized that there was no one in the courtroom whose only job was to provide a voice for those children. Caseworkers have obligations to their agency, the parent and others. Lawyers cannot investigate the facts and advocate for the mental health and social needs of the child. Our court was a court of general jurisdiction, so when I was not sitting at juvenile court I was trying civil cases, often involving large amounts of money or important legal issues. I would do the best job I could in deciding those cases and leave them at the courthouse when I went home. I wouldn’t wake up at 4 a.m. worrying about my decision.
While sitting at juvenile court, I never got a night’s sleep without waking to wonder if at least one decision I made that day had been the best for a child. It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives.
I had my bailiff call four or five people in the community who might be resources in recruiting volunteers to ask if they would meet for a brown bag lunch at juvenile court to discuss the idea. There were 50 people in the room when I walked in for that lunch. I thought, “This idea is going to work.” It has. Tens of thousands of people like you, speaking up for hundreds of thousands of children, have proven that it does.
At one early meeting to discuss starting CASA, I was asked if I wasn’t worried that volunteers would become emotionally involved with the children. I answered that if they didn’t, we had the wrong volunteers. But for a long time I wondered who you marvelous people are who give so much of yourselves to children. Mercedes Lawry then wrote her moving poem, “The Advocate,” (below) explaining what this is all about.
After I retired from the superior court bench, I became a volunteer in our program. It was an extraordinary experience. Both the hardest—and the best—thing I’ve ever done. But I realized that, although I had slept better as a judge knowing that CASA volunteers were speaking up for the children who needed their voices, the volunteers were now up at 4 a.m. worrying about those kids.
You are to be commended for your extraordinary commitment to children and for your sleepless nights.
This is not about
rescue, so as to feel good
when the child lights up with a smile.
This is not about
the comfort of compassion.
This is hard work,
struggling with ripped families
and children in clouds of pain,
anger dancing around in their hearts
in the turmoil of a world
made crazy. This is caring,
yes, but also what is just,
what should be demanded.
It takes love
and a certain measure of courage.
And in the simple act
of person helping person,
It becomes extraordinary.
— Mercedes Lawry, Former communications director, National CASA