1977 - Nationally-Founded
Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup was concerned about trying to make decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children. 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.
1985 - Local Implementation
Johnson County CASA began as a project of the National Council of Jewish Women and the Tenth Judicial District of Kansas. Their function was to alleviate the overloaded court system by advocating for children who were involved in the court system due to abuse or neglect. At that time, the number of abuse and neglect cases coming through the 10th Judicial District were so numerous Judges were unable to make informed decisions regarding the future of a child.
Community volunteers were recruited and trained to serve the best interests of these children by providing objective and factual information to the court. These volunteers investigated by involving themselves in the life of the child. They met with parents, families, teachers, social workers and anyone else involved in the child's life.
2004 - Present
Collaboration with the Wyandotte County District Court brought CASA services to abused and neglected children living in Wyandotte County. In August of 2004, the agency’s name changed to CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties and in October that same year a program director was hired to oversee the Wyandotte County program. By 2006, the Johnson and Wyandotte County offices consolidated and CASA took placement in Northern Johnson County. In 2015, the agency marked 30 years of serving children, and has in this time trained 1,389 community volunteers to serve 4,388 local children.
The need for CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties and our services continues to grow. Suburban poverty has more than doubled the number of struggling families living in Johnson County in the last decade. In fact, Johnson County is now one of the area's fastest growing in numbers of children in need of care. And in Wyandotte County, more than 1 in 3 children (35%) live in poverty. Child abuse and neglect numbers for the two counties combined account for 27% of the abused and neglected Kansas population.
Today, Judges within Johnson and Wyandotte Counties now have the option of appointing a CASA volunteer to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children. Programs are available for children who have been abused or neglected, or for those who are stuck in the middle of a high-conflict divorce or custody battle. Each volunteer is appointed by a judge to a single family and remains an advocate for his or her CASA child(ren) until the case is completed. All volunteers are screened and extensively trained. The volunteer gathers information, reports directly to the judge, and advocates for what is in the best interest of the child.