What is Tulsa CASA?

Tulsa Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a non-profit organization that trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system. Tulsa CASA, Inc., as authorized by Oklahoma law, is organized to speak for the best interest of abused and neglected children in court. We promote and support volunteer representation for the children in an effort to provide each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

What is the history of CASA?

The CASA program was developed in 1977 by Judge David Soukup in Seattle who was plagued with the feeling that he did not have adequate information about the cases he was hearing. Judges ultimately make the final decision about where the child is placed permanently – whether that is to return to their natural parents, or enter into a guardianship or adoption with foster parents, relatives, or other caring adults in their life. In the late 70’s, children in foster care didn’t receive the same representation in court as parents did. In an LA Times interview Judge Soukup stated “I was consumed by the fact that I didn’t have enough information about each child, and I just didn’t know if I had done the very best job I could.”

He thought well-trained volunteers could ensure children’s voices were heard and provide judges with the necessary insight to make the best possible decisions.

Judge Soukup formed the first CASA program to recruit, train, and supervise everyday people who volunteered to build meaningful relationships and advocate for abused and neglected children in juvenile dependency court. Those first 50 volunteers became Court Appointed Special Advocates, and gave birth to a movement.

There are now more than 93,000 volunteers and nearly 950 CASA programs in cities across the United States. Oklahoma currently has 22 local CASA programs, serving children in 61 of the 77 counties in Oklahoma.

When did Tulsa CASA begin?

Tulsa CASA was organized in 1985, incorporated in 1987 as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 Oklahoma corporation, and admitted as a Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW) member agency in 1989. Tulsa CASA was originally sponsored by the Tulsa Section of the National Council of Jewish Women as part of NCJW’s commitment to youth and community service. The Oklahoma Children’s Code specifically names CASA as the preferred method of providing guardians ad litem for abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers are charged to advocated for the best interests of the child [Okla. Statutes Title 10A, Sect. 1-4-306, to wit.] Tulsa CASA operates under agreements with the Tulsa County Juvenile Court.

How does CASA work with the Juvenile Court?

The juvenile “Deprived” docket is an integral part of the Tulsa County Juvenile District court. A child is assigned to this docket when a petition based on DHS confirmation of a report of abuse or neglect is filed with the court. The large number of children under the auspices of the Juvenile Court makes it very difficult for any of the parties to the case to have direct contact with the child, or with those caring for and treating the child. CASA volunteers are assigned to these cases.