In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington saw a recurring problem in his courtroom:
"In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, you walked out of the courthouse at the end of the day and you said, 'I've done my best; I can live with this decision,' he explains. But when you're involved with a child and you're trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child's growth into a mature and happy adult, you don't feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision. You can't walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o'clock. You wonder, 'Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?'"
To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, the Seattle judge came up with an idea that would change America's judicial procedure and the lives of over a million children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.
A pilot program began in Seattle in 1977. Its success led to adoption by other jurisdictions. The National CASA Association was formed in 1982, opened its national headquarters in Seattle in 1984, and launched a membership and fundraising drive.
In 1986 District Court Judge Don Paris attended the National Judicial College and participated in a workshop on CASA. He returned to Lexington determined to develop a program. Working with Sue Timmons, Dependency Coordinator for Juvenile Court Services, the two developed the CASA Project of Lexington. In 1990, the program adopted the Friend of Court Model, which utilizes the CASA as an impartial observer to serve as the eyes and ears of the court.
CASA of Lexington operated solely as a project of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s Department of Social Services until May 2003, when we incorporated as a nonprofit organization. This allowed us to pursue various funding sources in order to grow the program. The program is currently funded by grants, donations, fundraising, and continued support of local government. In 2017 the program expanded services to Bourbon County.
Our program currently serves only a fraction of the children in the court system. This is what keeps me working tirelessly to raise funds for the program, to ensure every child that needs a voice receives one through CASA. I invite you to join me through the donation of your time or resources to work towards this goal.
Jenifer is a graduate of the University of Kentucky where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is a native Kentuckian who was born in Louisville but chose Lexington as her home after college.Previously, Jenifer has worked for Girls on the Run Central Kentucky focusing on instilling healthy lifestyle habits in elementary and middle school aged girls.She came to CASA in November of 2014.
Mare is currently attending the University of Kentucky, and will graduate with her Bachelors of Social Work in May of 2015. She is then set to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky to obtain her Masters of Social Work degree.
She began at CASA as a practicum student in 2013, then went through training to become a CASA Volunteer Advocate and took on a case. After being with CASA over a year, she became a staff member and now holds the position of the Administrative Specialist.
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